PianoText uses skill transfer to turn the piano into a text entry device [DIS’14]


PianoText is a mapping of language to music that allows to use any piano with a MIDI output for text entry. It was inspired by a piano-like input device that was used in the mid of the 19th century, until the typewriter took over the market. Telegraphers of this time are known to enter text at a performance rate of 40 wpm or less. This nothing against an experienced pianist playing Rimski-Korsakow’s Fligh of the Bumblebee – a performance rate of over 200 wpm! The goal of PianoText was to find a better mapping from letters to notes such that the expertise of a pianist is transferred to the process of text entry and thus typing on the piano could reach similar performance rates as playing it. Therefore we developed a computational method that searched for a mapping between motor pattern in typing and piano playing, considering their n-gram frequency distributions and respecting constraints affecting the playability of music. The resulting mapping doubles the performance rates of the Hughes telegraph and there is still room for improvement. Read the paper to learn how far this approach could be developed.

See the project homepage for software, video, and more.