Social Jukebox is a physical music player tailored to work in a social environment.
Wooden tokens contain a personal playlist created by their owner, providing a physical attachment to their music. These are easily attached to day to day items such as clothing, jewellery or keys to keep them close to hand. The Jukebox mirrors the physical interactions of a record turntable – something we have lost through the growth of digital media.
The Jukebox plays a track from a randomly selected token. This sequence continues throughout the social event providing a unique, collaborative mix built from the playlists of each participant.
From my previous post I have taken forward a similar style to the Philips portable turntable. I etched the level indicators onto black acrylic using the laser cutter. I then filled the etched slots with a mixture of filler and white paint. Any excess was wiped off and the acrylic was buffed down to a matt finish. I used the same approach for my button insert. I’m undecided on using the phrase ‘START’ on the button however. I wanted to convey that each time the object is used it will play a completely unique playlist thus starting something new every time. I felt it would make each playlist a new and exciting journey.
I think I need to make other variations using Play and Pause in text and symbolic format so see how they tie in.
I chose to add a volume slider to the object as I felt it needed something to convey that it is a musical device. I really like the volume sliders found on the Phillips 22GF Portable Record Player pictured below.
I wanted to replicate something similar to this on the object. I crafted my own buy splitting a 3.5mm audio cable and attaching two logarithmic potentiometer sliders to the left and right wires. Fixing the two potentiometers together and locking their sliders meant I could control the volume and maintain a stereo output.
As mentioned in the previous post I want my tags to be a similar shape to a coat toggle. I tried to turn this shape on the lathe but it proved too difficult and I just wasn’t happy with the outcome. The straight forward solution was to simple buy some toggles and alter them. I really liked the stained beech wood on these ones and are perfect once cut in half. I need to order new tags to fit inside. Thin glass tags will work best here plus they will be visible through the hole which I think is nice.
I want to embed the RFID Tags into a nice physical shape that can be easily carried around or attached to various items that are carried around. I’ve decided on a shape similar to a duffle coat toggle. This will provide a nice shape like a talisman and I can be easily attached via the hole through it. This creates a problem with my RFID Reader. The tag needs to be within 2-3cm of the reader and mounting this inside the box would prove tricky, especially as there needs to be room to spin the carousel. The solution is to mount the reader above the carousel, outside the box. Below is two stages I went through before settling on a final design. I’m really happy with this as I think adds a further reference to a turntable.
This is my Mark One prototype. The servo motor spins the carousel exactly how I want it and I can easily control the speed through my coding. The tags can be easily read.
I still haven’t solved my loop problems but aside from that it’s running smoothly. I’m happy with the size and there is more than enough room to fit all my electronics into it. I’ve decided to use 4mm MDF for the final object. I will be able to accurately laser cut this and it can be finished easily and painted. It shouldn’t look like wood when its done. The lid will be frosted acrylic which I hope to vacuum form for a clean shape.
Mark Two will be just as challenging as Mark One but I feel I’m in a better place now I have a solid idea and physical prototype of my project. I’m extremely happy with the project and where it stands at this current stage. For me, Make Mark Two will focus on refining the physical appearance and the interactions that users will experience when operating it. There is a number of tests I have to do with materials, joints, sizing, durability of the object and its finish not to mention getting the electronics working flawlessly. I definitely have another busy three weeks ahead of me.
Having decided to alter my design to work with just one reader, I spent time generating a lot of solutions. Some designs looked at sticking with the bowl and making the object an experience prototype. I wasn’t very happy with these as I want the final object to work to its full ability (if possible).
My other designs looked at how tags could be placed in specific slots or areas and moved above the reader. When I spoke to Mike Vanis, one of last years graduates, he suggested that the bowl shape was too personal and the object should show that its designed for multiple users. Taking this into account allowed me to decide on my final design idea.
I’ve chose to go with a carousel style which will contain six slots. Tags can placed in these slots and are moved over the reader, which will play a single random track from their contained playlist, which will create a randomly generated playlist. Further inspiration behind this design was taken from a documentary called Press Pause Play. This documentary studies the progression of music and how it has evolved from something physical to something digital. One key section is when Anne Hilde Neset of Wire Magazine talks about the interaction and experience of listening to music. She would buy a record and loved the enjoyment she got by listening to it, reading the vinyl cover and watching it spin around on the turntable. To her, listening to music back then was a ritual. She goes on to explain that we’ve lost this experience as now we tend to be doing something else like reading a book or working while we listen.
I want to tap into this experience by visualising the changing of music track (this spinning of the carousel) and perhaps visualise the song being playing in some manor.
After my first attempt on the lathe I was really happy with the outcome. I realised I would have to make the bowl shallower so it is easier to place the tags in and pull them out. I also needed a recess in the bottom to house the electronics.
After another afternoon the in the workshop I had this.
The recess needs to be deeper but I can alter this later when I get round to making a few more versions. I think I may stick with the engineers foam as its very durable, easy to shape and the surfaces can finished to a nice smooth texture which is ideal for painting.
For a while i’ve been wanting to try out the lathe in the workshop. I knew it would be able to give me a nice bowl shaped container, I just wasn’t sure how easy it would be. It turns out it isn’t too difficult, with engineering foam anyway. The results above took a little over two hours most of which was sanding. The breakout boards for my RFID Readers are still to arrive so I can’t do any range tests till then. My first thoughts are the depth and width. I think the final product will need t be shallower and maybe 50% bigger in diameter. There will also need to be a recess underneath to house the electronics. The engineers foam has also proved itself as a new material I could use. I had always planned to use wood, something hard like oak, but painting the foam a solid colour is starting to become a viable option. I’ll conduct a few tests on the block above and see how it looks and feels. Overall, i’m really happy with the results and how simple it was although this will probably change with real wood.
I realised that there is no background to this project so I thought I would revisit Phase 0 and show my process for deciding on a brief.
I did a bit of basic research and a lot of thinking over the summer break and I decided that I wanted to look at music and the different environments we listen to it in and the environments that music can create. A very expansive area. During the first week back we were asked to jot down a rough description of the area we wanted to look at. We then stuck this note onto a large chart based around Eddie Obeng’s Project Types. At this stage I determined that my project was a movie. This means that I know how I will create my project but I don’t know what the final outcome will be or do.
From this stage I started researching this area. I looked at several projects, the Spotify Box for example, and started gathering insights. As a quick exercise we were given a day to draft up one hundred ideas. I managed roughly sixty which I split into seven categories. After a discussion with my tutor I trimmed the categories down to three and started to form a brief for each one.
My three briefs were:
- An object that can record and playback music to connect family, partners and friends.
- A device that conveys the emotions of it’s user through music and tangible interactions.
- How we listen to music as a group and how can everyone contribute to the experience.
The next stage was Ideas Day. We had to exhibit the three briefs on individual boards. The boards had to include an image, a quote and answer six questions. Special guests were invited to speak to us and I think this day was the turning point for the project. I initially had strong feelings for the first brief but after the session they had completely changed to the third brief. From there we begin this project and also the first blog post.
As I gathered insights and research over winter another scope started to emerge. A few friends that I spoke explained that they are only in a social environment once a week at most. They thought the basic idea would be better for an individual. From this I decided to gather some insights and see where it took me. An interesting idea was what happens when someone comes home from a day at work. Could the RFID Tags be embedded into everyday objects that would trigger a certain playlist when they came home? One example of this came from a friend who hangs a jacket up when they arrive home. Placing the RFID Tag into the coat and the reader into the coat hook would allow a certain playlist to start when the jacket it hung up. The main idea I saw from this would be assigning certain playlist styles to certain objects. The coat could trigger relaxing music which is played after a hard day. A set of keys could mean the user is heading out afterwards so a more upbeat playlist is started while they get ready.
I planned to interview more people to gain a better insight to the rituals they have when they come home but I have decided to put this angle on the shelf for now. I may return to it after I finish my Degree. While it has some great interactions, it removes the whole social aspect of my project which is the main area I want to study. This idea could become an offshoot from the final idea, perhaps a feature that is employed when there is no social environment.
My second design language looks at the personal ownership of objects. I chose ceramic to convey this language because it is fragile and requires care when handling. This put pressure on the user to look after it and make sure they don’t break it. The sharing aspect from the playful design language will not be relevant as I think users will not want to give away something they value and look after. Above are some examples of ceramic being used within speakers. I really like the contrast with wood and if I choose not to use it for my individual parts I would to use it on the “hub”.
This design language is inspired by bright colours and playful objects. The idea is to create something that people of all ages will want to interact with. Bright plastics provide a sense of durability and fun. This allows users to get hands on without them having to worry about breaking it. It is also very eye-catching and can draw people to it compel them to play with it. Above are some examples which I printed onto a board. These are a few styles I would like to investigate if I decide to choose this design language.
Over the winter break I observed how music is listened to within different social environments. I noted some distinctive differences in each environment.
- Popular tracks that everyone recognised.
- Music played from several devices (mostly iPods or iPhones).
- Music played through a docking station with speakers.
- These devices were swapped when one did not contain a specific track.
- Device was never left unattended.
- No audio quality complaints.
- Occasional queue to put on a specific track.
- Conversations regarding the current track.
- Healthy and fun arguments over which track should be next.
- Boisterous and loud environment.
- New music that people wanted to share.
- Devices tended to be laptops.
- Music was played from inbuilt laptop speakers.
- Music often played from YouTube with emphasis that the video should be watched as well.
- Other members of the group were reminded of other track when listening to another.
- Something else normally playing in the background (TV, Movie or Console Game).
- Relaxed and quiet environment.
I’m still waiting on my cultural probes to be returned and to conduct a several informal interviews which will hopefully yield more information.
Music is a legal minefield when it comes to sharing and swapping. The best solution I have found to bypass this is Spotify. Spotify is absolutely perfect for this project as it allows access to a massive database of music. Users can build playlists and share them via URL or social media. The Spotify app automatically opens when the URL is accessed and opens the playlist ready for playing.
The next step was getting Spotify to interface with Arduino. I started by creating an applescript that would open a specific playlist on Spotify and start to play it. This was relatively easy and works extremely well. The next step was triggering this applescript via the Arduino. This proved far trickier than expected. I tried using Processing, however, I kept getting a lot of java based errors plus Processing has to carry out the applescript within its code and does not run an already available script. I gave up at this point and admitted defeat.
One week later I started attempt two. I’d done some more research into this and found a potential solution. The applescript editor included in OSX can accept plugins. I found one called SerialPortX. With the right code this can monitor the serial outputs from the Arduino within Applescript editor. My Arduino code is very simple and prints the number ’1′ whenever a physical button is pressed. The Applescript code watches the serial monitor and activates the Spotify part of the code when it detects that a ’1′ has been printed.
Although this process was very trial and error it works exactly how I need it to and will be beneficial when I start my Make Stage.
Video to follow soon…
I want to gain a better insight into how music affects the social environments we encounter as a group, whether it be relaxing or partying. I also want to explore the reaction to a physical device or devices that can be used to share music within a social environment.
I decided to create a cultural probe that I could hand out to a specific group and see how they reacted to it. I started by examining what information I wanted to gain. I settled on three key areas:
- Is the experience of a social environment enhanced when everyone can contribute their own music?
- Did the use of a physical device add anything to the experience?
- How was the lack of skip button generally received?
Sticking to these three questions I started designing a rough concept. I liked the idea of a cube because of its box like qualities, almost like the music was stored inside.
Inside the box is an mp3 player. This is connected to a USB cable which protrudes from the box so it can be easily plugged into a computer or laptop. A speaker is also included inside to ensure it works under any condition but it allows the users to plug in their own speakers if desired. Lastly a button is added to the side which allows the device to be played or pause. This is the only form of control.
I cut the net shapes using a Laser Cutter and then assembled all the parts using a glue gun.
I then created a wrapper which would convey what the device was for, instructions for use and a list of questions for the participants to answer. I experimented with green and purple card
Purple card was chosen as it complimented the cardboard and was dark enough to be etched on using the Laser Cutter.