Gizmag has the details on this musical cube from the Hackable Instruments project.
The aim of the Hackable Instruments project is to create instruments that can be easily tweaked by the player to find interesting new directions for producing flavorsome tones, without any specialist knowledge of electronics or engineering, while also aiding in the development of distinctive playing styles. Project members Andrew McPherson and Victor Zappi have designed and built a deliberately simple instrument that produces sounds when a player’s fingers touch, slide or tap a capacitive sensing strip on one of the wooden cube’s faces.
The battery-powered 8-inch wooden cube comprises a two-dimensional capacitive touch sensor strip (actually the front part of a TouchKeys sensor) with a force-sensing resistor (pressure sensor) underneath on one of the cube’s faces and an output speaker on another. Inside, there’s a BeagleBone Black development board with an audio interface that runs Linux and some custom software authored by Zappi.
The team created two versions of the cube. The software of one generated sound based on pressure only, and the other produced small variations in frequency depending on the location of the touch on the sensor strip. Both instruments gave players a blank sonic canvas on which to explore new, and perhaps even very personal, playing styles.
“We tried not to suggest any particular ‘right’ ways of playing, either in the design of the box or in any of our instructions,” said McPherson. “What we found was a startling range of playing styles, including many techniques we hadn’t anticipated, such as playing on the wooden box, filtering the speaker with the hand, even licking the sensor to produce a sustained tone from the residual moisture. This was very interesting because it confirmed one of the principles we set out to test, that performers will discover personal ways of using an instrument that differ from the designer’s intentions.”