When those infants graduate from playing with computer music-controlling pacifiers, they can move on to blocks. Our friend Nat points today to a brilliant tangible computing interface that generates sequences of musical events. (Also seen last week on Matrixsynth.) The transmitter (some sort of RF operation) communicates with a receiver connected to the compute, and the computer generates the sounds. Nat’s unsure of the creator, but the YouTube videos were posted by “traer”, which I’m guessing is Jeffrey Traer Bernstein, who has developed a lot of interesting projects and some great stuff for the Processing coding environment we’ve fallen in love with over at Create Digital Motion. (Traer, whoever you are, feel free to say hi!)

Here’s my personal favorite. (YouTube has some other configurations; one even includes beat juggling.)

DIY Interactive Blocks: TileToy

Ever wish you could go beyond oohing and ahing on the Web and experiment with technology like this yourself? You’re in luck: one project has released extensive open source documentation. TileToy is a similar concept in that it uses blocks and radio frequency-to-serial connection to a computer. (It adds a nice extra: interactive LED matrices on top of the blocks let you display different patterns.) The system works via a patch built in Max/MSP. (It could also be easily ported to Pure Data or another free environment if you’re on a budget.) Even if just part of this project appeals to you — like the RF aspect, or the grooving LED lights — it could be well worth checking out both the project and the “do it yourself” section:


The DIY section includes a parts list, assembly guide, complete guide to controlling the hardware, software for Max/MSP, and software for communicating with the PIC. Might want to cut your teeth on something a little simpler if you’re a beginner, but file this away for when you’re ready to make the jump! (Thanks for the reminder of this goes to Chris at Pixelsumo.)

TileToy is the latest of a series of similar projects. We Make Money Not Art covered Digital Cubes by Simon Schiessel way back in January 2005, and from 2003, the “father” of these kinds of projects is Ryoto Kuwakubo’s Block Jam for Sony (thanks, again, Chris!):

Block Jam [Sony Design]

Other good tangible computing resources out there? Let us know!

Babies Making Electronic Music on Video, and More on Traditional Japanese Instruments (Interactive teething ring, also built with Max/MSP)

[tags]DIY, hardware, alternative-interfaces, design, how-to, physical-computing, tangible, electronics[/tags]