6 Futuristic Musical Instruments Built In 72 Hours

In this year's Red Bull Creation challenge, makers built musical instruments in just three days.

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Yesterday six teams of makers built futuristic musical instruments, conceived of and created in just 72 hours for Red Bull’s Creation competition. The DIY competition asked teams to create never-before-seen instruments that could compose and play live music. A third constraint: the general public had to be able to interact with each instrument. All six instruments were on display and available to explore yesterday at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn.

A panel of judges deemed Chicago’s MB Labs the overall winner for a virtually controlled drum set and awarded the Labs $10,000 and a trophy. The “People’s Choice” award, determined by festival-goers, was awarded to Minneapolis’s 1.21 Jigawatts for a device that converts drawings into music. i3 Detroit was voted Team Choice winner for a contraption of musical tubes called Whirly Turbulator. Check out our gallery for more.

The Vitruvian

Inspired by DaVinci’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man, Maker Twins created a colorful way to mix your own music.

The Vitruvian’s backend

A laptop and custom arduino board control the music tracks.

Dissecting the Vitruvian

The top wheel changes the tempo of the music. The two joysticks control which melody is looping, and which bassline is selected. The four remaining wheels select different musical filters and effects.


The winning instrument, by MB Labs. A table with two circular sensors allows people to interact with the drum set (to the right).

Autoloop up close

Users can control both the rhythm of the music and which instrument is being played by moving around the triangles and spheres pictured here.

Detail of one of Autoloop’s sensor pads

Detail of one of Autoloop’s sensor pads

Erte-tronic Deco Decoder

The Erte-tronic Deco Decoder, by 1.21 Jigawatts, won the People’s Choice award for letting users convert drawings into music.

Detail of Erte-tronic Deco Decoder’s machinery

Detail of Erte-tronic Deco Decoder’s machinery


The Treequencer is a 10-foot-tall steel tree with musical notes for leaves. Housed in the tree are various sensors that detect movement. Sounds are created by people dancing around the tree.


Besides being pretty to look at, the Treequencer, by North Street Labs, can be programmed to translate movement into music in many different ways. Some of the sensors are visible at the base of the branches.

Uncle Jimmy’s Old Fashion Fly-By-Wire Jug

When the suspended jug is moved, the water level in another jug changes and air is blown across a hole to create a high or low pitched note. Think of an old jug band that plays two notes (high water level and low water level). By Skullduggery Systems

Whirly Turbulator

The Whirly Turbulator, by i3 Detroit, uses electronic screwdrivers to spin five attached hollow tubes of different lengths, creating five different notes that can be switched on and off by pulling the strings.

Whirly Turbulator, detail

Though i3’s makers had lots of problems with their Whirly Turbulator, they were voted Team Choice by the other teams.