This controller with no direct antecedents is made by draping conductive stretchable fabric over a cereal bowl creating a curve similar to the famous one called the witch [sic] of Agnesi
Resistive strips around the bowl are shorted out by the fabric and the varying resistances are
measured and sent as OSC messages via USB control software on a host computer - typically resonance model sounds in Max/MSP.
The fabric is stretched in an embroidery hoop and draped over an inverted circular bowl.
A piece of conductive plastic cut in a special shape forms a corolla on the surface of the bowl. The tips of each petal are folded inside the bowl and taped with conducting-adhesive copper tape or fabric tape. The microcontroller board measures the electrical resistances of these petals from their tip to a common center established with a gold-plated fabric ring at the flat of the bowl. As the conductive stretchable fabric (the “calyx” to complete the flower analogy) is displaced towards the bowl it shorts out different lengths of each conductive plastic petal.
The result is a circular array of nearly mass-less displacement sensors. The gesture-to-displacement relationship changes according to distance from the center of the bowl (variable “gearing)”. This allows for several different playing styles.
One style, similar to hand drum technique, involves tapping the fabric surface directly onto the bowl with the fingers of one hand and leaning towards the other side of the bowl with the palm.
Another style involves both hands interacting from the outer hoop towards and around the base of the bowl.
You may also put it on the ground and use it as multiple foot “pedals”.
A second version increases the number of fabric pressure sensors on the base board from 2 to 16.
An important point about the Tablo is that the drape sensing allows both very delicate light touch to be sensed along with very muscular or fast gestures when the fabric touches the piezoelectric strips. It is very hard with stacked position and pressure sensors to achieve
this dynamic range so essential for compelling hand drum gestures.
It has been designed so that all the important
sensing nodes are surrounded by grounded fabric to keep the noise down.
The hoop is easily removed so that the only moving part (the stretch fabric) can be replaced or washed.
A single pressure sensor is snuck into the top of the bowl.
There is lots of interesting potential math behind the shape of the bowl: spherical doesn’t work well, a catenary may yield a nice linear relationship between the finger position and sensed value, the
“found object” bowl used is very good and almost linear.
You can scale this design up to support multiple people playing it if you can afford the fabric.
You can also build it in a linear/keyboard style instead of "in the round".