The Virtual Conductor (Personal Orchestra)

The Vienna Philharmonic

Have you ever wished to conduct the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra yourself? Have them play their most well-known melodies the way you want? Now you can: With the Virtual Conductor exhibit.

Standing in front of a huge video projection, you can see the orchestra in their Golden Hall. This is where the famous annual New Year's Concerts are given that are broadcast on TV worldwide. You pick up an electronic baton, choose a piece, start conducting --- and the orchestra follows your gestures precisely! The larger your gestures, the louder the orchestra plays, and conducting toward certain instruments makes them play louder than the rest.

But best of all, the orchestra even follows the speed of your conducting: The faster you conduct, the faster they play! This is a huge technical challenge which we are proud to have met. (You cannot simply speed up playback because it would change its pitch!)

See a video of Personal Orchestra in action! (28MB, free QuickTime required).

A University Collaboration

This exhibit was created by a cooperation of Prof. Max Mühlhäuser's research group at the University of Darmstadt with the University of Linz, and the University of Ulm. Jan Borchers, now at Stanford University, was responsible for the overall design and project management.

Here is a replica of the actual Credits Panel from the exhibit, listing all those who helped to make it happen.

New: Pictures from the "Making Of" Personal Orchestra!

An Interactive Exhibit In the HOUSE OF MUSIC VIENNA

Vienna has been called the Capital Of Music for the last 200 years. It is a city of sounds and melodies, and in its centre lies the HOUSE OF MUSIC VIENNA <>. Inside, visitors are invited to listen to, see, and feel music. Thanks to a large number of interactive installations, every visitor can create music in a playful way. The centre opened in June 2000, and the Virtual Conductor is one of its most successful permanent exhibits.


Sample Press and Demonstrations

New: The HOUSE OF MUSIC VIENNA received the 2002 Austrian Museum Of The Year Award. The jury particularly praised its exemplary use of new media to deliver high educational value in a most modern and entertaining experience. The award was presented on Nov 14, 2002.

The New York Times featured Personal Orchestra in an article, "A Vienna Museum for Would-Be Maestros", by Paul Hofmann, on July 22, 2001.

The Virtual Conductor was one of the exhibits selected for display at the ACM1 Conference & Expo, the world's premier event on the Future of Computing. The conference was organized by ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, and took place in San Jose, California, from March 10–14, 2001.

The Chicago Tribune ran an article by Marcy Mason on the museum on Oct 22nd, 2000; probably the first to appear in North America.

The journal of the German Engineering Society (VDI-Nachrichten) had a report on the House Of Music on October 6, 2000, with emphasis on the Personal Orchestra exhibit. (5MB PDF, in German.)

A paper describing Personal Orchestra has been submitted to the UIST 2001 conference.


Jan Borchers
Acting Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Stanford University
353 Serra Street, Gates Building, Room 254
Stanford, CA 94305-9020, USA
Phone / Fax: +1 (650) 725-7646 / +1 (650) 725-5850

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Last modified: Thu Jul 23 14:32:05 CEST 2003