comments 14

Modulares Interface B.A. – Physical controller interface for iPad


Created by Florian Born, Modulares Interface B.A. is a physical interface for iPad comprised of knobs, buttons and sliders to provide precision and haptic feedback when operating a digital interface.

These controllers expand the usage of a touch device with a haptic feedback while adjusting parameters. By using magnets, the different controllers can easily be arranged onto the iPad. A modular interface appears, which uses a given device just like the iPad. The system is comprised of three different parts – the physical controllers (button, slider and knob), made out of conductive aluminium to pass on the electrical discharge of the human skin. Second, a frame, made out of aluminium and plastic, in which the iPad is inserted. The edge of the frame has embedded magnets, making it possible to position the controller precisely. Finally, the software, running as an app on the iPad which organizes the control elements and sends the parameters to the corresponding software, which is controlled by the modular interface.

The controllers are made of aluminium because of its property to forward electrical charge. Therefore, the electrical discharge of the human skin can be transmitted to the touchscreen of the iPad. To prevent the control devices from screeching the display, a piece of conductive foam is used on the end of each controller. An app programmed in Cinder/C++ is running on the iPad. It manages the individual setup of the controllers and reads their input on the touchscreen. The app then transfers the information via OSC to a connected application.

Project Page | Florian Born


  • Chris Randall

    I’m not in the habit of doing drive-by snark on people’s creations; generally, it is nice to see new ideas in the world, and interesting to watch them grow. Also, the creator is a true artist with respect to the metalwork and overall design. That much can’t be faulted.

    With that said, I have a hard time coming up with a reason for this to be. It seems like an incredibly complex solution in search of a problem that doesn’t, to my knowledge, actually exist, doesn’t it?

  • Hey Chris, as long as you can accept that design is not just about problem solving but can have many facets – design provocation, speculation, critique, etc then things like these are much easier to position, understand their relevance and purpose…

  • Jason Charney

    Personally, what has kept me from integrating my iPad into my music performance rig is the lack of tactile feedback I get with my other controllers. You can’t reach over and grab a knob without looking like you can with other controllers, just knowing where the button or fader is with muscle memory. But the flexibility of the tablet surface is unparalleled – it can be customized from performance to performance and piece to piece. This design solves the tactile problem. If this product were on the market I would purchase it without hesitation.

  • Jimmy Breeze


  • dpp

    hi chris, if you don t *feel* the problem that is addressed here, that is perfectly ok. i have the same thing with many design projects. but if you are interested in researching what others think about *knobs over surfaces* i have a keyword for you: controllerism. the beauty of this design is clearly that it is haptic, it is modular and the ipad is still an ipad once you are done controlling things.

  • guy’s thought

    this is realy far-out,and do not need the question why……just a great tool for all circuit-benders and punkt U up devices.big applaus for all inve’n/r’ters over the globe!
    nice work and perfect made !

  • Jim Magdelania

    you ever try to operate synthesizers on touch screens?? they often leave much to be desired. this serves a purpose, you’re just not able to see it.

  • Dazzlaa

    Fantastic idea. I really love using my iPad for music, not only on the move but at home too. The fact the iPad now has a serious collection of soft synth available makes it worthy of anyone’s time. I’d love to have a test drive of the modular interface for touch osc and Ableton. And it actually looks really really cool. Well done and thank you for showing it off :)

  • Derek Jones

    OK. I think – finally – I get this…
    I’ve been thinking about it some. This is different than the other
    examples of similar products because what it’s doing is taking over the
    iPad entirely. Instead of adding knobs to existing applications, it has,
    of course, its own dedicated application.

    think if one has an *extra* iPad that one can (at least sometimes)
    dedicate to being a controller, and, if the knobs were different – (the
    aluminum approach is IMO not *distinctive* enough a UI design – all
    knobs / sliders / buttons are the same color on the same color
    background) – i.e. one could make it look more like a regular controller
    with black knobs or different colors at least and with a slightly less
    “bulky” feel overall – *then* it might come into its own.

    Further if it were possible to fit more of each element onto the same area I think it’d help sell it more.

    IMO this says “factory” not “studio”, but, I’m beginning to see the potential as I mull it a bit.

  • ErstO

    Actually I can see this being used for a lot of applications, not just for musicians.

    Video editing, graphic editing, even as a separate input device for flight sims or gaming, any application where you are focused on the screen, application, device or viewing audience and don’t want to look away to use a touch screen.

    Would love to see these components on the market.

  • ibi sum

    From the point of view of physicality, such a device is in high demand. As much as it is functional, and a part of our life today, the touchscreen interface still suffers some severe limitations. Performance with physical devices, custom-made for the job as most musical instruments and sound-manipulating devices are, really matters to musicians. Touch-control over parameters is not nearly as reliable – and directly interfaced with the intention of the user – as a knob, a slider, a physical button. These things work far more reliably than touch, especially in high-performance, potentially high-load (on the intellect behind the finger), situations.

    So, this is something I’m very happy to see, because if it works out, it will solve a significant issue with using touchscreen-devices on stage: sometimes you want to rock, not slip.

  • SquidgyB

    Not just for music either – I’m thinking of a modular control box for flight sims etc – they can cost hundreds of pounds… This would make use of tablets that are typically already purchased to create a truly modular tactile control system.

    It’s a fantastic idea, imho. SHOW ME WHERE TO THROW MY MONEY.

  • Teun Verkerk

    I really like the look of the controls, but I wonder if it is gonna be up for sale. There is a product that is almost there; the Tuna knobs from Check them out.

  • Nabukad Nezhar

    I think also like Chris….ipad was a good choice to replace classic interface(mouse/keyboad) and give the performer/artist more freedom….Ok it’s still 2-dimensional…I don’t also see any solution to existing problem…..if that device above would offer 3D control…then I would agree :)