Sound Synthesis

Project by: April De Zen, Veda Adnani and Omid Ettehadi

Music Credit: Anish Sood @anishsood

Contributors: Olivia Prior and Georgina Yeboah
The team wants to give a quick thanks to Olivia and Georgina for letting us leverage the code from experiment 2, Attentive Motions. Without the hard work contributed by both these ladies the musical spheres would not have been finished in time, we are truly grateful.

Left, Final display of Sound Synthesis. Center, Sound Synthesis Team. Right, Special thanks to Attentive Motions Team

Project overview

Sound Synthesis is an interactive light and music display that allows anyone passing by to become the party DJ. There are 3 touch points to this system. The first is the ‘DJ console’ which is made up of children's blocks. Each block controls a different sound stem which is triggered by placing a block on the console. The next two touch points are wireless clear spheres which contain LEDs and a gyroscope that triggers another sound stem when the sphere is moved. These interactions not only activate sound and lighting but it also invokes a sense of play among all ages.

Intended context

The teams intent was simple — bring music and life to a gallery show using items common in child’s play. Relinquishing control over the music and ambience at a public event seems crazy but this trio was screwy enough to give it a try. The goal was to build musical confidence among the crowd and allow them to ‘play’ without the threat of failure. For a moment, anyone is capable of contributing the mood of the party regardless of their musical experience.

Final display of Sound Synthesis

Product video

Production Materials

  • 2x Arduino Micro
  • 2x Feather HUZZAH with ESP32 WiFi & Bluetooth
  • 5mm LED — Green (20 Pack)
  • 30 WS2812 RGB Addressable LED Strip
  • 60 WS2812 RGB Addressable LED Strip
  • 2x BNO055 — Adafruit 9 DOF Absolute Fusion IMU
  • Full Size Breadboard — White
  • 1/2 Size Prototyping PCB
  • 16 Pin Receptable Socket
  • 12 Pin Receptable Socket
  • 220 ohm — 1/4W 5% Resistor (10 Pack)
  • 4.7 K ohm — 1/4W 5% Resistor (10 Pack)
  • Copper Tape — 2"
  • Panasonic AAA Battery (4 Pack)
  • 2x AAA x 3 Cell Battery Holder
  • 2.1mm DC barrel jack
  • TDK Lambda LS75–5 — AC/DC CONVERTER 5V 75W
  • 2600mAh USB Power Bank

Ideation

The team brainstormed different ways to combine older projects together to create a playful music experience for those visiting the end of semester show.

Sound Synthesis is a combination of 3 projects. Left: Urchestra, Center: The Kid’s Puzzler, Right: Attentive Motion

Journey Map

The Journey Map

Programming

One of the benefits of revisiting previous projects is that most of the hard work has already been done. The first thing we needed to do was see what data we can get from each of them and assess what else needed to be added or altered.

Testing and setting up the circuits

The DJ Console (Blocks) The puzzle used six switches with the help of copper tape underneath the shapes to complete the circuit. Also, it had a single LED light to indicate when any of the shapes were placed in their right position. Each shape corresponded to a specific sound that was then played through the P5 file.

We wanted to stick to the same principle, with a straightforward addition. We wanted to provide instantaneous feedback to the users upon any changed that were made, so instead of having only one LED, we placed six of them indicating how many blocks were active at each time. The system still used an Arduino micro that sent the data for the switches over serial connection to the P5 file. The data was then sent to PubNub so that the display system could use them.

The Sphere The ball used an Arduino Micro, an Adafruit Orientation Sensor, a LED strip and a small speaker. It used to make noise whenever it was to stable asking people to move it. We didn’t want the device to play any sounds anymore, we only wanted it to send the orientation data to PubNub. To do that, we got rid of the speaker and changed the Arduino Micro for a Feather ESP32 board. The board read the data from the orientation sensor and send it to PubNub. To provide real-time feedback to the user, the LED Strip would show some light whenever the ball was shaken.

The Center Display The display used an Arduino micro, a LED strip and nine switches made of copper tapes. The biggest issue with this problem was the need for copper tapes under shoes to complete the circuit. So, we got rid of the tapes and only used the design as a display. We added two extra LED strips to the display to make the experience much better.

The P5 read the data that was sent from the two balls and the puzzle and based on their configuration played the track that was associated with them. The data then sent to the Arduino micro over the serial connection to control the 3 LED Strips. The primary LED Strip was focused on the puzzle. If any of the keys were placed the LED strip would flash a green colour every 2 seconds; else it would flash a white light. The other 2 LED Strips each were related to a specific ball. The strips would flash the same colour as the ball that was shaken.

The team testings of the units

Sound and Design

We wanted to design an experience that made it easy to play with music, and could empower users of all experiences to create music of their own. While learning how to use musical instruments is a difficult task, and requires countless hours of disciplined practice, how might we do the opposite and create something that is inclusive, easy to use, and engaging at the same time.

We needed a total of 8 sounds, six sounds for the DJ console (puzzle blocks) that set the main track and 2 accent sounds for each of the spheres that are triggered upon shaking.

Anish Sood is a DJ, songwriter and music producer based in Goa, India. The genre’s he focuses on are EDM, House, Techno and Electro House. These felt like the right fit for our experience. We did a call together and briefed him in detail about the project. We wanted a track that was upbeat and yet soothing, and not monotonous to listen to. We took inspiration from the artist Kygo to describe the kind of sounds we wanted to produce. We also shared with Anish many pictures and videos of the parts of the experience and our vision for it. He was extremely receptive and put together a beautiful track for us within 24 hours of our call. He created six sounds on the DJ console that were divided between base sounds and overlapping instrumental and vocal sounds. He also sent us the master track so we knew what it would all sound like when it came together.

Fabrication

The following steps were part of the process:

The DJ Console (Blocks) We already had the base for the DJ console in place from Experiment 3. This included the puzzle itself, a base box for it and a single LED light to indicate if the device has been activated. In order to convert the design from a kid toy to something more mature, we decided to spray paint its colourful keys to a simple black and white design. We also had to add 5 more holes for additional LEDs feedback, and one for the connecting cable. While presenting we used a plinth that housed the Laptop underneath.

Figure 10.1: Left, drilling holes for LED lights into box 
Figure 10.2: Center, Adding circuitry into box 
Figure 10.3: Right, Spray painting shapes for box

The Sphere The fabrication process for the spheres were already done in Experiment 2.The only thing that was required to be changed was the circuit, and addition of a battery holder for the LED Strips so that they could be run for more than 3 hours.

The Center Display We decided to stick with the same object that was made for Experiment 3. The only thing that needed to be changed was to remove the extra Ultrasonic sensors from the box. We added a base to the design so that we could glue down the three cylinders that were to hold the three LED Strips. We also added a back panel to the design so that the LED Strips would be invisible when the device was off.

Figure 11.1: Left, adding more LEDs to original circuit created for the Kid’s Puzzler project
Figure 11.2: Center left, rewiring new and improved DJ console
Figure 11.3: Right, April making alterations and rewiring to the original display unit used in the Urchestra project

Final Fritzing Diagrams

Figure 13: The final circuit for the hamster balls

Figure 14: The final circuit for the Blocks (DJ Console)

Figure 15: The final circuit for the center display

Presentation & Show

Figure 16.1: Left, Final floor plan of Sound Synthesis
Figure 16.2: Right, Instructional signs placed on plinth under each interactive device

For the final show, we wanted to make sure the connection between the three pieces were clear and the users know what each of the pieces did. To do that, a clean installation of the work was crucial. We placed all the objects in a corner, where they could see the display center from each of the stations. We used plinths of the same height, and printed short instructions on what to do with each piece to make sure the user is clear on his/her role in the experience. We also printed matching ID cards and wore black and white — to look like a team at the exhibit.

An issue we had to deal with was to make sure the web browser for our display unit was refreshed every now and then as the large quantity of data sent to it made it crash if it was opened for a long time. We made sure that at least one person was at the station at all time to make sure nothing goes wrong.

We received very positive feedback on the project. People were very interested in how easy it was for them to act as a DJ and play with the sounds without having to worry about the pace of each track and how to synchronize them. Kids especially enjoyed the experience because they were used to the puzzle and the games and they really liked to be in charge of what is being played. Other people really enjoyed the experience because of the unusual interface for the music. They liked how simple it was to control and how little work did they have to do to get good sounds out of the system. They also appreciated how instantaneous the feedback is with the interaction. One thing that they felt that could be improved was to add more tracks and give the users ability to choose which track is for each piece.

Reflection

After all the hard work we were able to achieve something that works beyond the level of a basic prototype. Hamster balls were dropped and the system crashed but everything was up and running without anyone at the party noticing. We are extremely proud of the final product and still can’t believe how well it turned out. If this project was ever to be scaled up it would require more stable software and possibly custom microcontrollers but for a 2 week student project, we are very proud.

Figure 17.1: Left, April and Veda rocking out at the final show
Figure 17.2: Right, Veda continues to rock (While Omid makes sure everything is under control)

References

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.picaroon.eu/tangibleorchestra.html

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.picaroon.eu/tangibleorchestra.html

Cave of Sounds. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://caveofsounds.com/

Romano, Z. (2014, May 22). A tangible orchestra one can walk through and play with others. Retrieved from https://blog.arduino.cc/2014/05/22/a-tangible-orchestra-one-can-walk-through-and-play-with-others/

Schoen, M. (n.d.). Color Chord. Retrieved from https://schoenmatthew.com/color-chord

Tangible Orchestra — Walking through the music. (2014, June 03). Retrieved from https://www.mediaarchitecture.org/tangible-orchestra/