What is it?
Vinyl On The Wall is a hardware interface for controlling music playback on a home computer. The basic idea behind this widget is to improve accessibility of certain functionality provided by software on desktop machines or laptops. In our case we wanted to work with the way users interact with their digital music collection.
When stored in an application like iTunes, one usually has no choice but to sit in front of their computer to perform changes on the playback. In general, sitting in front of the computer seems something like everyone’s favorite activity nowadays. We just do it all the time. But in fact, noone really wants to sit in front of their computers all the time. It’s uncomfortable, it feels like working, like spending time in the bureau.
So why is everyone doing something they don’t really like? Because they have to. The reason for this dilemma is that a big part of our daily life tasks have moved into the digital world. Mail, Newspaper, Movies, Reading, Phone: it’s all in there. And the access point to this world is the computer.
In consequence, the usability for the different tasks is really weak as there’s only one device for everything. Take music as example: scrolling through a list of endless song names, adjusting the volume by dragging a grey little bar from left to right, clicking on a imaginary window while sitting face to face to a monitor – not very sexy.
Thus, new hardware elements are needed. Hardware that gives decent access to the various functionalities of computers and the online world. Our controller is such an element. Put on a wall it gives access to the playback control of your digital music collection. Besides its functionality, it also comes with a cool design, making it valuable from a trim point of view as well.
Breaking it down to the essence, Vinyl On The Wall could be described as a designer widget for music playback. A cool helper tool to get away from the computer, while still using it.
All pictrues can be found on my flickr-page.
How does it work?
Our prototype is built out of a few very basic components:
- Arduino board
- Stripe of RGB LEDs
- 3x optical sensor, 1x ultrasound sensor
- Mechanical engine (taken from a car’s sliding roof)
- One dusty vinyl record
Put on a piece of wood we connected everything through the Arduino board. The logic compiled on there takes the given sensor input and sets LED feedback and the activity state of the engine accordingly. Additionally, it sends output to a Processing application. From there, the music software controls are set.
Values and Potentials.
There are two main values that come with this project. The first one is its HCI value. As described in the main project description, this widget helps getting away from using the computer in an old fashioned way. Interaction with digital music playback becomes more enjoyable and exciting. The second point is our widget’s design value. Put in a living room it surely will leave an impression on your guests, and of course make you happy as well. Hey, it’s a vinyl on a wall with flashing LED lights. What’s cooler than that?
Going on with this project it would be interesting to evaluate the controls of our widget. What’s music controls are most needed, how are they best performed with a machine like ours, what additional input could be processed through it. Different sensors could be tested out. The hardware itself is also interesting to think about. What kind of motor would be best to use for turning the record (won’t use sliding roofs no more), or how this widget could be built without the electricity being provided externally. Let’s see where we end up with this one!
The software running on the Arduino and the Processing part for your Mac can be pulled from my GitHub repo.
This is a project by Daniel Büchele (buechele) and Thomas Bauer (bauerth). If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us via @cip.ifi.lmu.de. Thanks for reading through!
By end of december 2011 I am working on a second generation of this project using bluetooth and a battery-pack to get rid of all cables, as well as some reconfiguration of the sensors. Once it is finished, I will post a article about it and release the circuit diagram.