Freedom, Magic, Fun

SPACEBEATS is a digital music instrument creates a feeling of playing drumbeats in the space through gesture and light. Drumbeats are played with just a simple wave of hand, with an unprecedented feel of freedom. The sound will also be responded by led strips in an reflecting box. It allows people to explore infinite space in a limited area.

Keywords: drum, digital instrument, space, music, led, physical computing, beats, sharing, multiple-players

(SPACEBEATS is a 5-week project done by Zhen and Yang to present our basic idea of a new interface of instrument. It is still developing.)


“When you play from your heart, all of a sudden there’s no gravity. You don’t feel the weight of the world, of bills, of anything. That’s why people love it. ” — Carlos Santana

We believe that music should follow the genuine rhythm from your heart. An instrument should be a medium and helper for people to convey their feelings instead of a constraint. When playing music, you should not be stuck on a chair in front of a drum set or with hands tightly holding a saxophone. Your body should move freely by following the instinctive instruction of your heart.

So, we explored to build an instrument that is:


Keep people’s hands free to wave, mouth to laugh, legs to jump, body to move.


Playing music is fun. Playing with friends is even more fun.


The interaction is designed to be SIMPLE. You don’t have to hit or pluck anything. Just wave your hands freely in the air and enjoy the sound you make.

It turns out that with more freedom in interaction, people tend to have their own unique way when play with it.


first playtesting
second playtesting

We first designed different interfaces for people to tap. In the first playtesting people still seemed to be constrained.

Then we changed it into “tap-free” mode by interacting with lights. People became more comfortable with it and each one had their unique way to play with it. That’s what we want!


sound flow

Visual Expression

Lighting is always a good tool to enhance live performance. It is also a good way to gives users feedback by visualizing the sounds they’re making.

We use different lights to represent different notes. Also, we can use the intensity of lights to represent variations of sounds.


SPACEBEATS is powered by Arduino. The sound is generated by Max and Ableton.

Basic Circuit

SPACEBEATS uses 5 photocell sensors to detect light. When user’s hand hover over the sensor, it changes the sensor value and triggered the “bang” in Max. Then Max sends MIDI signals to Ableton to generate sound.

Basic Sensor Circuit


As in live performance, we’re using Max x Ableton to generate sounds in real-time.


Light Test
led strip

Together with sound, user’s gesture will also triggered the lights. Each sound connected to one line of leds. Each line connects to one PWM digital input of arduino. When

Light Test

Special Thanks to

Jeffery Fedderson, Tom Igoe, Jonathan Sparks, Jason Sigal, Gabe Weintraub, David Cihelna, T.K.Broderick, Peiqi Su

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