The Apollo system from Apollo Ensemble
Apollo software is great for using in music workshops. It’s very quick to use and highly flexible and can be made to do most things – short of making tea and toast, and it may well be able to do that in the near future!
The system is made up of two main parts – hardware and software.
This itself comes in two distinct parts – the Designer, used to make what are called ‘Themes’, and the Launchpad, used to play the Themes. In the pratical setting of workshops we tend to only use the Designer, as each theme can be launched from within it and in a workshop it’s very common to have to make a change to a theme on-the-spot, something which is very easy to do because of the easy to use graphical interface.
Very briefly, the Designer has three main sections – Inputs, Outputs and a bit in the middle called ‘Tools’. Within each of these three sections there are blocks, represented graphically on-screen, which can be dragged into a central design area and connected up with virtual wires. As it’s all graphical and specific colours are used to represent the types of blocks from the three sections, the software is very intuitive, obvious and easy to use.
Here’s a screen shot of a theme which does various things:
One of the great features of the Apollo hardware is the way in which devices with which we’re very familiar, for example games controllers, music keyboards, AAC switches etc. In addition to these, Apollo supply specialist pieces of hardware which some users might find very useful. Here are a couple of ones we use:
This is called the ‘Duel’, into which can be plugged special switches which, instead of being either ‘on’ or ‘off’, can change smoothly from one value to another. The picture on the right shows such a switch – a rubber bulb which, when squeezed, gives out a change in air pressure which is changed into a gradually changing electrical signal by the small black box, which is, in turn, plugged into the Duel. The sensitivity of the bulb can be controlled by the two small controls on the black box.
Some of our musicians really like this sensor as they get a really good tactile feedback to the strength of their grip. Maybe this could be incorporated into a game where the players have to see how bright they can get a light to light, and if they can get it to the brightest, a bell sounds, like on a fairground! That’s what’s so good about Apollo – it’s so flexible anything’s possible – it’s just up to one’s imagination.
The Duel has its own input block, and so it could be used, for example, to turn the volume of a sound gradually up and down. It’s also wireless – transmitting to a small receiver called a dongle, which is a bit like a USB memory stick plugged into the computer.
This is a simple wireless switch interface which allows 4 wired accessible switches to act as inputs into the Apollo sofware. Again, as with the Duel, it ‘talks’ to the computer via the wireless USB dongle receiver.