Open Music Kontrollers

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the name come from?

The name Chimaera both reflects the functioning and usage of the device. It is a general music controller and you may use it as theremin, keyboard, violin, guitar, drum kit, etc. The hardware is based on voltage sensing, whereby the voltage itself changes with the magnetic fields. Followingly the references for the two origins of the device name.

chimera or Chimaera

- n

  1. ( often capital ) Greek myth a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a serpent

  2. a fabulous beast made up of parts taken from various animals

  3. a wild and unrealistic dream or notion

  4. biology an organism, esp a cultivated plant, consisting of at least two genetically different kinds of tissue as a result of mutation, grafting, etc

[Origin: from Latin Chimaera, from Greek khimaira she-goat, from khimaros he-goat]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition 2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009

Chimaeras are cartilaginous fish in the order Chimaeriformes, known informally as ghost sharks, ratfish (not to be confused with the rattails), spookfish (not to be confused with the true spookfish of the family Opisthoproctidae), or rabbitfishes (not to be confused with the true rabbitfishes of the family Siganidae).

They may be the “oldest and most enigmatic groups of fishes alive today”. At one time a “diverse and abundant” group (based on the fossil record), their closest living relatives are sharks, though in evolutionary terms they branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago and have remained isolated ever since. […]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The ampullae of Lorenzini are special sensing organs called electroreceptors, forming a network of jelly-filled pores. They are mostly discussed as being found in cartilaginous fishes (sharks, rays, and _Chimaera_s) […]

These sensory organs help fish to sense electric fields in the water[…]

The ampullae detect electric fields in the water, or more precisely the difference between the voltage at the skin pore and the voltage at the base of the electroreceptor cells. A positive pore stimulus would decrease the rate of nerve activity coming from the electroreceptor cells, and a negative pore stimulus would increase the rate of nerve activity coming from the electroreceptor cells[…]

The electric fields produced by oceanic currents moving in the magnetic field of the earth are of the same order of magnitude as the electric fields that sharks and rays are capable of sensing. This could mean that sharks and rays can orient to the electric fields of oceanic currents, and use other sources of electric fields in the ocean for local orientation. Additionally, the electric field they induce in their bodies when swimming in the magnetic field of the earth may enable them to sense their magnetic heading[…]

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Is the whole project really free/libre and open source?

Yes, it is really, from the hardware design, over the embedded firmware via the transport protocol down to the host software, everything is free/libre and open source.

How do you handle intellectual property rights?

All hardware documentation and design is released under the CERN OHL v1.2. There are no patentable mechanical components or special production techniques involved in our design and we live in the insightful part of the world that regards software patents as unreasonable. The design however is protected against patent trolls with a defensive publication which renders any patent filing by a third party invalid due to prio art.

Hanspeter Portner. Chimaera - the poly-magneto-phonic theremin - an expressive touch-less hall-effect sensor array. In Baptiste Caramiaux, Koray Tahiroglu, Rebecca Fiebrink, and Atau Tanaka, editors, Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, pages 501–504, London, United Kingdom, June 30 – July 03 2014. Goldsmiths, University of London.

Why should I want a Chimaera!

Its design is completely free/libre/open and can be configured in a way that exactly matches your needs. You don’t have to adapt to a predefined style of using it (actually there is none, that’s the whole point of the Chimaera, it’s a general purpose music controller), the Chimaera instead will adapt to you’re own style.

Is the Chimaera hard to play?

This depends on how you’ll use it. If you use it as a continuous-pitch music controller, then it’s maybe comparable to a violin, where you don’t only have to play, but also hear and micro-adjust the pitch. As the Chimaera is truly polyphonic, the more fingers you move simultaneously on the continuous scale, the harder it gets to stay in tune with all of them. But you can configure the Chimaera to mimick e.g. a drum machine, an e-guitar, piano or sampler, which will be more straight-forward to play.

Does the Chimaera need any special drivers and operating systems to run?

No, it’s a network device and (potentially) runs on every operating system (actually it does not even need an operating system) without any drivers, you just need a network infrastructure (the simplest being just an ethernet cable between the Chimaera and your host machine or LAN) and you’re ready to go. But you may need some drivers (on Windows at least) to update the firmware on the device via USB. So far we have successfully tested the Chimaera on Arch Linux, FreeBSD and Windows.

Is the Chimaera easy to build?

You should have some intermediate SMD soldering skills, as several hundred components have to be soldered onto the printed circuit boards. The case is simple to assemble and has only a few parts.

How long does it take to build one?

If you have all the parts ready, based on your skills, reserve yourself a day for soldering …

Do you provide kits with all the components?

We may provide you with raw printed circuit boards and solder paste stencils to self-assemble the units, but no electronic components. We may also provide you with fully assembled units.

Do you provide fully assembled devices?

Hopefully soon, yes.

Why not just use a tablet or some other device with a dedicated touch screen instead?

You can surely drive a sequencer with your touch pad, maybe even control some variables of your synthesizer to some degree. But the update rate, resolution and general responsiveness of a touch screen are way below acceptable ranges for an expressive and dynamic music controller.

Is the Chimaera a MIDI device?

No, it is not, as MIDI is not suitable as the primary transport layer for the Chimaera. The Chimaera is a device which can be used as a tangible user interface and therefore uses the TUIO protocol specifically developed for that purpose, it is based on the widely used Open Sound Control specification.

But can I steer my MIDI devices with the Chimaera?

Sure you can, OSC is merely used as the primary transport layer between the device and your host machine. On your host machine you’ll then decide what will happen with the data, e.g. convert to MIDI and steer a software synthesizer, drum machine, DAW, lighting, …

Is it easy to interface the Chimaera with my special software?

Everything that can be communicated with by MIDI or Open Sound Control is easy to talk to by the Chimaera and can be done with some scripting on the host. The idea is that it should be easy to come up with templates for host programs to be used with various targets. Everything based on open specifications can be integrated, of course. If your software uses proprietary communication channels you’re on your own, though.

I like the font, what is its name?

Its called Berenika, you can get it at

Last update - 15 Apr 2022

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