Physical Computing – Final Project / Proposal
For my final project in Physical Computing, I started by brainstorming all the ideas I had put away during the course and some inspirations that actually grew from class readings and discussions.
List of possible ideas included:
- DJ Midi controller
- Ferrofluid art installation
- Modular synthesizer – Building a different modular synth that allows you to assemble the instrument of your liking physically (e.g by joining pieces together).
- Jambot (Audio to midi) – I was thinking of creating a small listening bot that allows you to jam, and picks up audio that gets converted into MIDI notation in realtime.
I decided to keep only option 3 and 4, and after breaking down the devices into abstracted interactions, I found myself leaning towards the modular synthesizer idea.
I am fascinated by modular synthesizers, but it always struck me as devices that were actually designed ‘to feel complicated’, and by way of that, they tend to scare people who are not ‘into’ synthesis away.
My list of reference sources included:
Playtesting the idea:
I started designing what I refer to as ‘DMO’ – Different Modular Synthesiser. As we had to play test our chosen idea I decided to laser cut a simple interface and a couple of ‘modules’ and let people intuitively try and connect things, then write down the most common patterns, and try and figure out which modules make sense and which don’t.
My initial idea for the system was having:
- Brain module that holds the basic functionality (wave shape, master volume)
- Have control module that magnetically link up to the sides of the brain and control elements like envelope, LFO (low-frequency oscillation) and effects. The control modules were essentially variable resistors in the form of potentiometers, sliders and FSR (force sensing resistors) that could connect to each of the parameters on the sides of the brain in a way that suits the players liking.
- Generally, people didn’t understand words such as envelope, LFO and wave shape types, Devise a new terminology that doesn’t insult experienced users but doesn’t scare away hobbyists and non-musicians.
- Use Iconography to emphasize sound concepts as a visual thing (perhaps use metaphors that people can relate to).
- People didn’t understand immediately that the modules are controls, think about using the modules as sound components instead of control values ‘on the brain’.
- Danny Rozin mentioned fabrication as a main point, fabricating modular systems is a tough thing to do (I actually want my final to deal with fabrication, it’s challenging for me).
**Update – After speaking with Ben Light about the fabrication of the device I decided to build two modules (i.e a brain and one more) which will connect using Neodymium magnets to transfer electricity between the two.