Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Musical Lamp

One of the most engaging projects I've ever done was to design and build an interactive lamp - all from scratch - in one week. This project was special for a number of reasons.

Firstly, for requiring so many different skills. Just coming up with a strong concept was not enough for this project - it also had to be realizable. What do you get when you combine foamcore, fabric, electronic wiring, a microcontroller, guitar sounds and some C# programming all in one? The answer is "Indigo - the musical lamp".

Secondly, I because I took a very creative approach to it. Right from the beginning, I considered very carefully how much time I could spend on electronics vs modeling vs programming. But artistically, I had no idea where it would end up. I just knew I wanted a lamp that people could play like a musical instrument, using both of their hands. I took the idea and ran with it, adding another level of detail as I was going along with the building process.

I started from a simple shape and then began to play with it to create something that would look touchable and organic. 

I then went on to give it a smoother, curvier shape that would invite people to touch it. At this point though, I became concerned that covering the foam in any of the typical coating would spoil that effect. The idea later popped up: not coating, but fabric! 

But before you can have an "artistic message" and all... you need to have the circuitry for it. I've never done more soldering in my life! What you can't see in the picture here is that my fingers were scratched and torn from knotting wires all day :).

Aaaaah... all those numbered wires and sockets. You can see the Arduino board in the background and my laptop ready to unleash some C# fury and guitar sounds whenever LEDs were connected. 

One magic trick I pulled out of my sleeve was to use a layer of soft coating underneath all that fabric. This made it pleasant to touch and - it later turned out at the exhibition - very huggable. A friend of mine told me it looked like a Muppet.

On a different note, I have a soft spot for high contrast, so I couldn't resist the geometric, black and white print. Great idea, since it caught everybody's attention instantly - but a pain in the neck to work with! My eyes hurt for hours! I don't recommend it to anyone. 


"Ok, so just move the lights around and listen to the different sounds it makes! Sometimes it's a guitar, sometimes a flute, sometimes.. a cat!" 

  "Was that a cat?" 

No comments:

Post a Comment