I believe we can only achieve innovation by prototyping, experimenting and making a lot of mistakes.
Being a researcher in new interfaces for musical expression, for my Sandbox Wow, I’ve decided to build a prototype of a MIDI controller inspired by the Sandbox logo.
With this prototype I could experiment: a homemade conductive ink with graphite powder and white glue, a capacitive sensor with Arduino digital ports, a DIY sensitive pad made with a sandwich of two sides of EVA rubber and a contact mic as filling and a few musical interaction possibilities.
Making tangible things is a crucial part of my creative process. With the artefacts I build, I can have a better understanding on how and where I can improve and also acquire experience for future works.
Reflecting about this experience, here are some considerations for improvements:
- Visual feedback is important and the three colors per cell, with the RGB LEDs, were not enough during the step mode.
- The piezo-rubber pad didn’t work well and I think it could get better if there was a solid plate between the rubber and the piezo mic. The way it is, maybe, the rubber softens the contact.
- The way I implemented the capacitive sensor didn’t allow the system to trigger multiple events at the same time, which limited the musical expression.
- There is a lot of interference with the capacitive sensor value when I touch my computer’s body or step the floor with bare feet.
- As I chose not to solder anything, so I could reuse all the components again in future projects, the prototype took a lot of room and its ergonomy was compromised.
- The calibration process should be simpler and run only once. Currently, everytime the controller turns ON, the calibration is triggered.
- I’ve chosen the Arduino Mega because of my lack of time. However, I could use a simple Arduino Uno with chips such 74HC165 to increase digital input ports.
- In this version, the Arduino is sending MIDI messages through a serial port and an application called Hairless MIDI Serial is converting it to MIDI messages. In the future, the Arduino can be modified and the computer can recognize it as a MIDI device.
- Instead of cutting all the structure by hand, it can be much easier and a time saver to use a laser cutter.
- The musical controller was not so expressive in this prototype.
- Dragging the finger over the conductive ink was quite interesting for future musical interaction exploration.
The development of this prototype and this video was indeed an incredible experience. I hope you enjoy watching it! =)
Many thanks to Alissa Seixas for the endless support.
This prototype was made as part of the selection for Sandbox Recife and its shape is inspired by Sandbox‘s logo.