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GhostGuitar brings your air guitar to life

Wonder what your air guitar playing sounds like? This app will make it loud and clear.

air guitar game
Serenade your cubemates with the sounds of your air guitar.
Video screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Imagine standing in a silent room, posed in the classic air guitar stance. Swing your strumming hand down, and the sound of a guitar chord rings out from your iPhone or iPad. Thanks to augmented-reality app GhostGuitar, you can live this best-of-both-worlds scenario. Play air guitar and make actual music (or something like it).

GhostGuitar uses the front-facing camera on your iOS device to track the positions of your hands. You prop up the iPhone or iPad so you can stand or sit in front of it hands-free, and the app overlays an image of a guitar on the video feed of you. You can strum one of five chords by moving your left hand to one of four marked positions or leaving it off the guitar neck. You can also pluck any of the six individual strings. (See the video below.)

You get your choice of four ghost guitars: Acoustic, Crunch, Sleek or Clean; and three effects pedals: distortion/fuzz, chorus/vibrato, and delay. The app lets you set the five possible chords. It includes bass and drum accompaniment of several styles, including heavy metal, surf, and waltz. And, of course, as the proud creator of air guitar riffs, you'll want to save and share your sounds. The app can record video or audio-only files, which you can e-mail or upload to YouTube.

For me, air guitar is all about imagination. I put the tunes on, close my eyes, grasp my air guitar, and for a moment I'm Jimmy Page, Kirk Hammett, or Dean DeLeo. Playing a virtual guitar doesn't appeal to me that much, probably because I have a real guitar that I occasionally use to rattle the windows.

That said, I think GhostGuitar is as much an actual instrument (albeit a crude digital facsimile) as a game. I'm all for people making their own music. And if people get into it, chafe against GhostGuitar's limitations, and go on to get real guitars, so much the better. Starter electric guitar kits start at about $80 these days, and there's a wealth of instruction to be had free on YouTube.

As augmented-reality fidelity improves, I'd like to see this app--or others like it --let you finger actual guitar chords rather than simply move your hand along the guitar neck. But for $1.99, who's complaining?

(Via Gadget Lab)