Guitars with electronics built in are hardly new. Most people are familiar with standard electric guitars, but Takamine and other companies started putting in equalizers and other sound-shaping gear in the '80s and '90s.
MIT's Chameleon Guitar, however, goes a few steps further, incorporating a full computer, as well as a small soundboard that can be interchanged with other soundboards made of a different wood or a different material altogether.
The sound generated by the electronic pickups on that board can be manipulated by the computer to produce the effect of a different size or shape of the resonating chamber. By putting extra acoustic modules together, the guitar can mimic any other guitar and practically any other instrument.
It's a neat idea, to be sure, but it might prove too complex for the everyday user. The everyday user, though, isn't who creator Amit Zoran likely had in mind for the unique piece. He envisions a production model for professional musicians that features quick-changing components, allowing the player to change the instrument live during a performance.
It's an ambitious task, but Zoran's a graduate student at MIT's Media Lab, so he's probably up to the challenge. Who knows, we might start seeing the five-pickup-wielding Chameleon onstage soon. And it even looks good. Check a video of the thing in action after the jump.