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Syd Synth
Friday, 09 March 2007
Kraftwerk's Electric Café
(Kraftwerk's Electric Café album cover)
A couple of days ago we discussed voices for robots, but it also struck me some time ago that many modern gadgets make other sounds to tell you something about them.

We all know that R2-D2 in the Star Wars series expresses it's self with a series of beeps, but also my cell phone makes a different sound for a call to the sound for a text message, and my microwave goes ping when it's finished.

Of course with a PC Based robot, like the 914, it's very easy to make it play sounds. You can either play sound files within an application such as BRIAN or as Windows system sounds, but you can also run sound generation software on your Bot. I recently came across a free piece of software to do just that. It is called Syd.

Syd is basically a program that emulates analog sound synthesizers which it allows the user to control though a GUI using various objects that can be dragged around and connected together. There are some pre-made patches supplied with the download, my initial impression of these was they made Syd sound very much like some of the sounds created by early Kraftwerk - a group that pioneered electronic music and influenced many artists today.

Syd is available as a Windows executable, but the most recent version is a Java application that will run on Windows or a Mac. I exchanged emails with the author of Syd, Jim Bumgardner, who has also written various AI software and has a general interest in robotics. Jim says that he also has another version of Syd which is written in C and has an XML driven command line API which enables external control of the patches and sound playback. The source for this is available on request - if anyone is programming their own robot software application this would potentially be quite useful as it would allow you to generate sounds in near real time to reflect 'moods' and so on from your robot.

The standard version of Syd is definitely worth checking out for everybody - even if you just make your own set of custom system sounds for start-up or shutdown etc. Syd will export the sounds straight to .wav files so this can be done very easily.

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