AR Synth lets you play five classic synthesizers on your phone

Google’s Arts & Culture platform and YouTube have launched a new online exhibition to celebrate the history of electronic music, part of which is an augmented reality experience where classic synths from Moog, ARP, Roland and others can be played online for free.

The Music, Makers & Machines exhibition brings together information on those who invented the technology that made electronic music possible, those who actually made the music, and the genres of electronic music themselves. The project has tapped into the expertise of more than 50 institutions, record labels, companies, and pioneers to offer more than 250 online exhibitions, a huge photo archive, 360° virtual tours, videos and 3D scans of hardware, key venues and other objects. Impressive.

Visitors are invited to embark on four themed adventures, where they can learn about the basics of electronic music, experience the clubbing culture that was built around it, take a trip to legacy hardware heaven, or discover the sounds and be introduced to key artists. But one of the many high points of this freely available platform is the AR Synth experiment.

This impressive portal is home to virtual recreations of the Moog Memorymoog, the ARP Odyssey, the Fairlight CMI, the Akai S900 and the Roland CR-78, all of which can be found in the Swiss Museum for Electronic Music Instruments collection. You can place these classic synths in your surroundings (such as on your coffee table or sofa) using a smartphone or tablet, or there’s a 3D grid flavor that runs within a browser.

The AR Synth experiment puts five classics synthesizers under your control
The AR Synth experiment puts five classics synthesizers under your control


The Memorymoog was manufactured for a few years in the early to mid 1980s, and was a polyphonic synth rocking three oscillators per voice and was perhaps most notable for its massive sound.

The Odyssey two-oscillator analog synth was first introduced in 1972 and was one of the first to be able to play two notes at the same time. The Computer Musical Instrument – or CMI – polyphonic digital synth launched in 1979 and was one of the first workstations to come with a digital sampler.

The S900 was released in 1986, and is reported to have been Akai’s first truly professional sampler – with 12-bit stereo sampling, 7.5-kHz to 40-kHz variable sampling rates and is also said to be one of the first rack-mount samplers to come with a built-in disk drive. The CR-78 was a boxy rhythm machine launched in 1978, and offered microprocessor function control, 34 preset rhythm patterns and 14 analog drum tones.

Basic information accompanies each model, notes can be added to a 16-step sequencer to hear what the synths sound like and there are even knobs and dials to tweak tones or apply filters.

Like Google’s Blob Opera from late last year, this is a fun experiment and everything works well, but be warned – it can eat into your free time quite considerably. The AR Synth can be launched from its own online portal.

Project page: Music, Makers & Machines exhibition