Using physical traces to communicate the digital use of a connected object
Time frame: 20 weeks | 1 day a week | 2015
Team: 5 master students
Remember when we only had physical things? Even though your favorite pair of jeans would scratch and tear, you didn’t want to throw them out just yet... Phonos is an interactive speaker that grows with you, just like those jeans. Based on the music you listen to, a photosensitive pattern appears on its surface. Phonos combines digital music with the age-old photographic printing process of cyanotype to develop an analog image of your audio. Want to capture this moment or do you just like the pattern you see? Take out your traces and rinse to make them permanent.
My role in this project was to ensure that our design concept fit the design brief. We struggled quite a bit in grasping the topic of traces of use. In theory it was a very clear concept but in practice it was hard to make the traces both aesthetically pleasing and functional. We quickly started with the idea of designing some sort of interactive speaker; because we were intrigued by the emotional effect music has on people.
We then tried out different concepts, in search of meaningful traces. At some point the idea of translating music into visual traces popped up. I was very enthusiastic about the reference to synesthesia, so I looked into different photography and lighting techniques. When I stumbled upon the ancient technique of cyanotype, which we could easily do ourselves, it all came together. After a few more weeks of electronics prototyping and chemical experiments we created Phonos.
To make the traces permanent the user can remove a circular sheet of paper beneath the surface. By rinsing the paper with water the cyanotype is fixated.
Above an example of the analog photographs with the traces is shown. They form a visually appealing abstract story of your music listening history. Below that the different interactions with the speaker are illustrated. These gestures are intentionally designed to be very physical and make use of the form of the speaker. This adds a layer of physical traces of use on the speaker.
Work in progress: modelling the form of the speaker based on the intended interactions. Further along we tested different foam models in a quick user test to find out whether the gestures we envisioned were intuitive. We found out that 'press to pause' and 'flip to turn on/off' were most intuitive.
In this stadium we brought all the electronics together. It was time to test whether the transducers would produce loud enough and clear sound when placed in the case along with the other components. The clarity wasn't a problem, however it was not very loud. For the presentation prototype we used an external speaker.
Here I'm testing the UV leds on a photosensitive surface, using paper tubes to direct the light.
We tested the photosensitive solution with the UV leds on different surfaces to find one that produced clear traces. This proved to be tracing (how appropriate...) paper.