The Teabox is an innovative high-speed interface for connecting sensors to your computer using a digital audio connection as the transport. The Teabox offers high-resolution sampling at extremely low latencies, and provides a reliable interface for your real-time sensor needs. We believe the Teabox will provide the best possible performance for artists working with sensors in installations, performances, music therapy, dance, education, and theater.
The Teabox is the ultimate sensor interface. It is simply the best, most reliable sensor interface you can purchase.
Number 1 in Interface Speed
In real-time applications, such as a musical performance, live video performance, theater or dance, it is critical to get accurate sensor readings without delay. Too often sensor interfaces are designed to work with the aging MIDIstandard – a communications protocol lacks not only resolution, but also an ability to relay meaningful information in a prompt and timely manner. Some MIDIinterfaces also introduce an additional problem: the delay (or latency) in how long it takes to send a message to the computer varies – meaning that you can’t even compensate for what the delay will be!
The Teabox scraps this archaic conduit to give you the fastest sensor transport available – a digital audio feed. Most musicians and artists already have sound cards or audio interfaces supporting the S/PDIF standard. Most rarely use these connections in performance. The Teabox connects to an available S/PDIF input (optical or coaxial) and transmits the data at lightning speed to the computer as a channel of audio.
Want some cold hard numbers? The chart below shows the theoretical best-case scenario for a MIDI-based interface vs. an average-case scenario for a Teabox. In the real world, MIDIdoes not typically perform to the theoretical limits.
|Time needed to aquire the data from all 24 sensors
(and an additional start flag and hardware version number.
|23.04 ms (not accounting for jitter)||0.25 ms|
|Number of times data is updated per second
(for all 24 sensors)
|43.47 Hz||4000 Hz|
|Latency for any given sensor
(Teabox time is based on an I/O vector size of 64 and a sample-rate of 44.1 KHz. MIDIis again displayed with a theoretical number.
It is common to have the MIDIlatency be at least twice as high).
|23.04 ms (not accounting for jitter)||1.71 ms|
Number 1 in High Resolution
Speed isn’t the only aspect of MIDI-based interfaces that lacks promise. MIDI’s 7-bit resolution has a meager range of 0 to 127 – and no decimal numbers in between. This may be sufficient for numbering the keys on an electric piano, but it clearly cannot communicate the wide range of expression of which many sensors are capable. Where MIDI-based products fail in this regard, we present a powerful new alternative: the Teabox.
The Teabox uses 12-bit analog-to-digital converters on its 8 continuous inputs, significantly improving the expressive range of your sensing devices. This is the equivalent of an integer range of 0 to 4095, far exceeding the 0 to 127 range of most MIDIdata. The data for each sensor is then transported over S/PDIF as a 16-bit word.
Number 1 in Quality Connectors and Interoperability
The Teabox is packaged in a sturdy and portable half-rack chassis. We know that you need to be able to travel with it. A rugged box would not be of great use if it was built only with flimsy connections, or an exposed terminal block for sticking wires into it. The Teabox design is robust; it uses top-of-the-line Neutrik Combo™ jacks, which accept either 1/4” phone connectors or hardy XLRconnectors – you choose!
XLRconnectors offer a number of benefits to users of sensor devices:
- XLRcables are lockable – they won’t accidentally pull out of the Teabox like some sensor systems.
- XLRcables are extendable – need a longer cable? It is easy to plug in multiple cables to extend it to just the right length.
- XLRcables (and 1/4” cables) are common – you won’t have to go too far to find an XLRcable to plug into the system.
- XLRcables are shielded – protecting your sensor data from extraneous electromagentic interference.
Of course, we understand that you may already have sensors or already have the perfect one in mind. We have good news for you: we’ve designed the Teabox to play well with others. That is why we’ve given you 4 different connections to the sensor inputs. The 8 continuous inputs can be connected through the XLRor 1/4” TRSjacks just mentioned (as used on Le Toaster and EOBody systems), or you can use the semi-standard 3 pin header (as used on the I-Cube system); you can also bundle 4 sensors together on one telephone cable using the 6 conductor telephone jacks provided. The 16 toggle inputs can be accessed through 4 separate telephone jacks allowing you to group them together and send them to remote locations. (We’ve used runs up to 100’ without complication!)
Because the output from the Teabox uses S/PDIF, you can connect either using a 75-Ohm RCA-style connector or the high-quality TOSLINK(optical) connector. An additional benefit of using an optical cable is the elimination of electrical interference on the line that connects the interface to the computer.
Number 1 in Ease of Use
Sensor interfaces sometimes get a bad rap for being hard to configure. For example, some interfaces require arcane setup proceedures in the software that you are using to set up your sensors. Others may need to be set up using obscure syntax that makes no sense to an artist. Your good friends at Electrotap have changed all of that, too.
The Teabox is furnished with tools to make interfacing with your sensors easy. One example is our Max/MSP external. Simply plug the correct audio input channel into the teabox object and you get all your sensor data as individual MSPsignals. All values range between 0.0 and 1.0, reflecting our philosophy that a normalized and freely scalable range is easier to work with.
Not only is the Teabox provided with excellent tools, it is also provided with clear, thorough documentation. Included in the documentation are the specifications needed to get the Teabox running with software that is not explicitly supported.
Number 1 in Value
When we built the Teabox, we built it for artists, not millionaires. We are artists ourselves, and we understand the financial constraints that artists are under. Unlike many interfaces which are priced superficially high, the Teabox is offered at a reasonable price – especially considering that it blows the competition away in terms of speed, resolution, and reliability.