Finished the Standoffs: Early January 2015

I finally finished the acrylic standoffs for the stand. PHEW! Took way longer than expected; I’m glad I started on it so early.

Prep for standoff attachment

Prep for standoff attachment

I created these little standoff spacers for the column that melomuse will sit on. They create a gap that allows for sound to escape from each side of the column. I scored and snapped a clear acrylic sheet into eight .5″ x 2″ pieces and eight 1.5″ x 2″ pieces, which I then glued together as shown above. I then glued these sandwiched pieces onto a 12″ x 12″ white acrylic sheet (shown below). This sheet will sit between the 2′ tall white acrylic column and the 1′ tall frosted acrylic cube housing the electronics (including the speaker). This is where the .5″ gap is created.

Standoffs glued!

Standoffs glued!

Anyway, I would post a picture of the finished column instead of listing all those numbers and yadda yadda, but I want the installation to be somewhat of a surprise for Exhibition Night. I’m thrilled the stand is all done, and look forward to finally setting up!

A Few Updates: Early November 2014

The intro video has had a great response! I’ve been brainstorming a second video more focused on the product itself, not just the project as a whole. I’m thinking I’ll start work on that around New Years once everything else is done.

Speaking of everything else being done… we’re almost there! My current task is to finish the acrylic standoffs for the top cube. This task is a little more intensive than I expected; another reason I’m really glad I started this project early!

Video Shooting/Editing: Mid-Late October 2014

My intro video is coming along!

Intro Video Editing

Intro Video Editing

I’ve been playing with the balance of voiceovers, shots, and music to try and fit the gist of my project into a 1-minute video, as per Dan’s recommendation. It’s a fun challenge! It’s also helping me distill my project in my own mind; what’s the most important stuff to convey when someone asks me, “What’s your senior project?”

I plan to finish this video within the next week or so. Stay tuned!

Logo + Video: Mid October 2014

I’m still working on the acrylic standoffs for the cube, but a few more people tried the Matrix this weekend and loved it. So far pretty consistent results! I’m really excited to see what people think of the whole shebang, stand and all.

Here’s the logo I’ve been designing:

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 8.25.39 AM

You might recognize it from the top of the page :D. Here’s a few iterations I tried:

Melomuse Logo Iteration 1

Melomuse Logo Iteration 2

Melomuse Logo Iteration 3

It’s always a work in progress. If I stumble upon a different look that I like, I’ll let you know :)

Here’s another icon I’m working on for the installation:

Wave for Lights!

..any guesses? It’s supposed to let people know to “wave alongside the cube for lights!” Also still a work in progress. Please feel free to post a comment with feedback for this one. It’s a tougher icon to crack.

Lastly, I’ve been brainstorming ideas for an introduction video of sorts for my project. Soon I should be finished building the stand, and then I can start filming. Maybe I’ll ultimately use this video in my presentation… but we’ll see. I want it to give a clear overview of what this melomuse does and why. Always some new element to get excited about!

Standoffs and Whatnot- Early October 2014

This week I continued work on the Melomuse stand. Here’s a mockup I made for scale:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.55.27 PM

You can see the Sound Matrix on top. The bottom two feet of the column are solid white acrylic; the top foot is frosted semi-transparent acrylic. The lights on the side are shining through the frosted acrylic from the inside. They’re on an Octolively panel (remember these? They have lights that respond to nearby movement); one will be on every side.

All of the Melomuse electronics are contained within the stand, including the speaker. So, to let more sound escape, I’ve been experimenting with wood and acrylic standoffs to hold the top cube above the bottom stand. The wood works, but I think clear acrylic will be a more appropriate aesthetic; I’m hoping it makes it look a little like the top cube is floating. We shall see!

Name and a Stand: Late September 2014

I’ve decided on a name: melomuse.

“melo” = melody, mellow
“muse” = music, creative inspiration

Well.. it works! I like the vibe of it too. Rolls smoothly off the tongue. Melomuse.

I’ve been working on designing and building a stand for the Matrix to sit on. It’s gotta be welcoming and simple, but also fit the electronics and speaker inside. For the speaker, I’m using a UE Boom. It’s an awesomely powerful little speaker and, best of all, it plays sound in all directions, 360˚. Perfect!

The stand will sit in the center of a room (one of the Senior Building classrooms, I’m hoping) so the Matrix can be interacted with from all sides. I’ve been seeing how I can integrate the Octolively panels I talked about in a previous post. We’ll see!

Pictures coming soon :D

Designed to be Played: Early September 2014

I’ve been tinkering with the Sound Matrix for almost a month now, trying to add knobs and switches for more functionality. However, I’ve decided to scrap those efforts and shift the direction of the project. The ultimate goal has not changed: to make a musical exploration machine that anyone can use and enjoy. The way to reach that goal has become clearer.

Yesterday, I watched a Charlie Rose interview of Sir Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple Inc., and Marc Newson, another world famous product designer who was just hired at Apple and is a close friend of Jony’s. You can watch the interview on Hulu here.

Marc Newson and Jony Ive with Charlie Rose

Marc Newson and Jony Ive with Charlie Rose

Jony described design as reaching the inevitable to make something as intuitive and relatable as possible; “of course it’s this way, it wouldn’t be any other way.” Design isn’t necessarily “art”; it is, by definition, made to be accessible and simple. It may even seem naïve in the way it looks, as Jony put it.

This interview got me thinking… how do I make my device simple, intuitive, and relatable? It’s an interesting challenge, as people may not be familiar with something quite like my Sound Matrix. It has to be inviting and welcoming; not wag it’s tail in your face; complement a space without drawing excess attention to itself. What makes the most sense?

I originally had thought I would build a single-entrance booth for the Sound Matrix so people could use it alone. However, I want this experience to be collaborative and let a few people use the Matrix at once. It should be approachable from all sides.

I’ve been playing with a frosted acrylic cube I got for the Matrix to sit on. I also picked up some Octolivelies, these amazing little boards of lights that react to movement. I’m thinking about putting one of these boards on every side of the Cube facing outward, so as people approach, they are greeted by a warm glowing pulse.

2 Octolively panels

2 Octolively panels

So now that I have an idea for welcoming people to the instrument, how do I get people to know they should be touching it? I mean, everybody likes pushing buttons, but I’d expect at least some people to hesitate before messing around with an installed project.

I want to provide instruction that is simple, doesn’t require reading, and can be understood at a glance. With inspiration from warning signs in the game Portal 2, I created an icon that tells people to.. well, you tell me!

Matrix "Play" Icon

“Play! Press some buttons!” is what I’m going for. I’m still working on another icon or two for other interactions with the machine.

This thing is designed to be seen, heard, and, best of all, played. Looking forward to my first focus group to try it out! (aka Senior Project Exhibition Night)

But there’s still lots to do! For one, I’d like to think of a name for the installation. I’ve been calling the actual device the Sound Matrix, but I want something different for this new stage in the project, something less techy, more relaxed and welcoming. I’ll keep thinking, and I’ll keep you updated…

Building the Sound Matrix: Mid August 2014

I got all the parts together and got to work putting together a configuration of 8 Trellis boards.

First of many Trellis boards to be soldered

First of many Trellis boards to be soldered

LED testing station

LED testing station

LEDs dropped in and ready to go

LEDs dropped in and ready to go

LEDs spread to hold them in place

LEDs spread to hold them in place

Bottom of the Trellis board

Bottom of the Trellis board

Done! Time to clip the leads and put all 8 boards together

Done! Time to clip the leads and put all 8 boards together

All 8 Trellises ready to be soldered together. Stack of button pads in the corner to go on afterwards

All 8 Trellises ready to be soldered together. Stack of button pads in the corner to go on afterwards

With all the parts Adafruit included a laser cut acrylic case. Nice! They call this configuration the Hella-OONTZ or the Hella UNTZtrument… I’m not so into either of those names, so I decided to codename my project The Sound Matrix. I think it’s got a better ring to it.

 

Taped up for soldering. A few more to go!

Taped up for soldering. A few more to go!

Sound Matrix board just about finished with a few faulty LEDs marked for replacement

Sound Matrix board just about finished with a few faulty LEDs marked for replacement

Workbench with parts galore. Time to put it all together!

Workbench with parts galore. Time to put it all together!

Sound Matrix board finished and fit in case

Sound Matrix board finished and fit in case

Here’s a quick lights and buttons test (no sound is coming from the Matrix. Music is in the background):

Slapped the rest of the buttons and the top on and it’s DONE! Short post to follow with video of the Sound Matrix in action.

Trellis Speaks MIDI: Early August 2014

HUGE MILESTONE – Trellis Pad Works as a MIDI sequencer… AKA NOTES ARE BEING PLAYED!

WOO!! So what’s going on here? The Trellis is plugged into an Arduino Leonardo, which is hooked up to my computer via USB. The Trellis sends information to the Leonardo based on buttons that are activated (pushed once); if a button is active, the Trellis will tell the Leonardo to send a MIDI message, corresponding to that button’s position, to the computer.

MIDI is essentially the language digital instruments use to communicate with a computer and ultimately play a sound. All electronic keyboards use MIDI to play notes.

Logic Pro X, basically a pro version of the music-making software Garageband, uses the MIDI message sent from the Leonardo to have the selected instrument play a note. In other words, pushed buttons make sounds play from music-making software on a computer. Awesome.

We’re getting close. Time to go full scale.

The Adafruit Trellis: July – August 2014

Good news! We found a different way to go about this! A way with single color LEDs, much smaller buttons, and a total of 4 WIRES coming out. WOW. It’s called the Adafruit Trellis. I soldered on the LEDs and, after some trial and error, got it to light up!

Adafruit Trellis connected to an Arduino Leonardo in the back

Adafruit Trellis connected to an Arduino Leonardo in the back

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

Size of Trellis buttons on top of big old button pad

Size of Trellis buttons on top of big old button pad

Oops! Broke off a pin.. good thing there's connectors that work on all four sides!

Oops! Broke off a pin.. good thing there’s connectors that work on all four sides!

Oh yeah, there’s also this: Adafruit just within the last week came out with a support for tiling up to 8 of these Trellis boards together, and they have example code and libraries to help get it going. AKA EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED :D . It’s time to start making music.

Getting to Work: June – July 2014

June 16. I’ve officially decided on an idea: I will make an Arduino-controlled step sequencer, a device that uses sequences of notes to create melodies in perfect time.

So… why a step-sequencer? Check this out. I stumbled upon this site back in May and fell in love with the concept: lots of little buttons that, when pressed, cause beautiful music to play no matter what. What a great way to get people into music-making. No learning curve; instant and consistent fun; great music made every time.

I want to make these buttons physical and fun to press. I also want to choose a sound that isn’t tiring, that’s relaxing but won’t but you to sleep. So.. where do I start? Urban Reininger and Dave Morgan recommended I look into the Arduino micro controller to power the actual “instrument.” This seemed a little daunting, as I had very little knowledge in programming. Urban offered to teach me some basic Arduino coding and help me through the process. Thanks to him, I was able to get off the ground and make something functional by mid July:

4x4 RGB LED PCB & Button pad from Sparkfun. That's a mouthful.

4×4 RGB LED PCB & Button pad from Sparkfun. That’s a mouthful.

First LED going in!

First LED going in!

IMG_0372

It works!

Functional.. but far from finished. Pretty colors are nice and all, but this thing isn’t making music. It has something like 30 wires coming out of it, and I want the sequencer to have 8 times as many buttons. I’m not looking for headaches just getting this thing wired up; 1 out of ~250 wires not working seems very possible and very impossible to fix quickly. We’re gonna have to find a different way to go about this.

Early Inspiration: April – May 2014

April 28. Junior year is finally winding down, I’m almost done with ACT’s. Time to start thinking about the one and only Senior Project.

Ever since my sister Julia presented her Senior Project in 2008, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do. Six years later, I’m stumped.

May comes around. I’m swaying towards music. I’ve been playing the piano for a few years now… for my Junior Year Media Project I made music using a Gameboy… what if I made some kind of experimental Gameboy orchestra? Set up a bunch of Gameboys to play different parts to an orchestral piece I’d write? Interesting, but very tedious.. so not THAT interesting.

I’ve made some electronic music on my computer before, so what if I composed some music with some limited set of tools? A Microkorg synthesizer and a Talkbox? Getting there…

I want to make something interactive.. something people can play with to make music. Improvising on the piano is so much fun, but learning how to play was hard.. what if I could give people the chance to make music without a learning curve?

NOW I’ve got something to work with.. kind of.