coolux’s Widget Designer is a popular tool for creating customizable show control surfaces that can bridge a plethora of various show control protocols and input devices. With the recent release of version 4.7, more protocols and inputs are now available on the popular platform.
This release finally implements the new Pandora’s Box ID Tags that debuted at LDI 2013. If you saw coolux’s booth in 2013 or 2014, you saw these tags in action. IR tracking and media servers seem to be all the rage right now. At d3’s booth at LDI this year, they were prominently displaying motion tracking with a BlackTrax IR system. The Marvel Universe LIVE! show that started last summer and is currently on tour uses d3 and BlackTrax very heavily for many of the effects of the show. Many articles and pictures quickly circulated this summer featuring that show as the first of its scale to use this technology.
Pandora’s Box ID tags are much smaller than the BlackTrax transmitters. The ID tags are about the size of a coin and have a battery on board that lasts over 10 hours or can optionally have wired power. The BlackTrax devices have smaller transmitters but get wired back to a larger battery pack. Assuming the ID Tags work as advertised, they will function pretty similarly to the BlackTrax system with Widget Designer being the core of the operation.
The new release also adds support for Leap Motion devices, which are small consumer devices that sit on a table and can track hand gestures with several degrees of complexity. In my experience, I have found the Leap to be quite finicky. It’s fine to play around with and can do some cool things, but I would be hesitant to use one in a show situation. I don’t know if the intention would be to use it on stage or to use it as a control device. It only has a functional range of a few feet, so again, not terribly useful. None of this is coolux’s fault - kudos to them for implementing a lot of the latest technology out there even if it might not have a ton of applications in this industry.
In addition to the above new features, several smaller improvements also came along with this new release. The program can now use up to 8 AirScan units, which are devices similar to the Leap Motion but more suited for entertainment and more reliable. More midi inputs/outputs can now be used. Multiple network interfaces can now be used if you need to separate Art-Net from other control protocols, for example. There is support for remote control of the Vista Spyder. There is also support for MA-Net 2 and SACN.
Several new features add onto the myriad of available inputs and outputs of Widget Designer. It continues to be a powerful workhorse for making custom control panels that interface with all sorts of data.