Touch Innovations Emulator 2 on a MacBook Air(?) and Microsoft Surface Pro 4 · Source: touchinnovations.com
After the quiet name change from SmithsonMartin and the retracted release of Emulator 2 you’ll be forgiven for thinking that they’ve not got the hang of this yet. But the weirdness doesn’t end there. The main image on the website has Emulator running on an Apple MacBook Air which, at least as far as I know, doesn’t have a touch screen.
Emulator 2 (they’ve dropped the “Pro” bit) is a touch screen MIDI controller overlay that lets you build wonderfully touchy controls for anything that responds to MIDI. You want multi-touch control over your DAW’s mixer – no problem. You want to build a multi-touch interface for your favourite software synth – off you go. I guess you can design the controls on a non-touch device like a MacBook but it would make it difficult to test as you went along.
I’m a long time user of the original Emulator Pro and although it took a bit of effort to build something useful it always had loads of potential. It was also a bit light on the MIDI implementation and could do with letting you get in deeper with that. Emulator 2 promises to sort a lot of that out. Touch Innovations say that it’s been fully redesigned and rebuilt to make it more intuitive and powerful. It now supports MIDI learn, OSC and standard keyboard commands.
OSC means that you can communicate more fully with software such as Ableton Live. Potentially you could create clip launch buttons that can pull in the clip name and other information. The keyboard commands part could allow you to create a touch-toolbar to bring up various windows in your DAW. It could also do simple copy/paste type commands which are useful when you are touching your screen rather than using a mouse.
Free updates for life? (Updated)
Since posting this article I’ve been able to have a conversation with the good people at Touch Innovations. They’ve been able to clear up most of my questions. The main point being that many things have changed. The company has changed and the software isn’t anything like Emulator Pro. It’s been re-written from scratch and goes far further and deeper than any update to Emulator Pro ever could. They are moving forward with the subscription model. They believe it’s the best way to provide a constantly developing and improving product. They don’t have an upgrade solution just yet for existing users but they hope to have worked something out very soon.
It is of course disappointing that you don’t just get everything for free, but I can understand where they are coming from. At the moment there’s still very little information on exactly how good and different Emulator 2 is. There’s currently no demo videos, deep information or demo version online either.
I do, however, have a couple of screenshots, which are in the gallery at the top of the post. I wanted to focus on this one a little just to highlight the radically different approach to the controls. Very interesting indeed. My frustration has been replaced with a desire to get my fingers in there.
Anyway, the other cool feature that’s come about with Emulator 2 is the Template Store. A place where you can buy templates for various DAW’s, DJ and performance software. You can also upload your own and potentially make some pennies from other users. This could take all the hard work out of building your own controllers from scratch – which is no bad thing.
So the deal is that it’s $20 a month to subscribe or $180 a year. You can run it on two computers, one copy at a time. It will run on Windows and is ideal for touch compatible all-in-ones, Windows 10 tablets and the Microsoft Surface. Or you can just add a touch screen to a regular PC. It will also run on OSX but you will need to get yourself a compatible touch screen. I for one am looking forward to having a go.
For more information head over the Touch Innovations Emulator 2 product page.