Posts Tagged ‘design’

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Tangible user interfaces for home audio

June 25, 2012

Last week, I was invited to the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design to see student projects created during a four-week module on Tangible User Interfaces for home audio. I talked to one of the lead faculty, Vinay Venkatraman, and he said the theme was inspired by a recent trip to China coupled with his knowledge of Danish audio companies: while there was a lot of emphasis on the technical aspects of audio, companies weren’t giving much thought to the interaction design elements.

It was a fruitful area for the six student teams to explore. The projects mostly focused on two spaces: interfaces for home environments (especially the kitchen), and music discovery, especially within the users’ own collections. One piece for the kitchen was designed for the refrigerator door: it consisted of fist-sized ‘building blocks’ that connected together audio controls (volume, shuffle, source, skip). The students had set it up on an actual refrigerator door, which led to a moment of cross-cultural confusion. One of its creators said, “But this is a prototype–of course, the real thing would be smaller,” and I responded by saying, no, you’d want it to be nice and chunky so you could hit the controls with your wrist or arm if your hands were dirty from food prep. It took me a moment to realize that I was thinking of US-sized refrigerators (a little to a lot bigger than her demo door) and she was thinking of standard European refrigerators (a lot smaller!).

But my favourite piece, pictured above, was called Past.fm. Designed by Razan Sadeq, Hideaki Matsui, and Zubin Pastakia, it was rooted in how people associate particular songs with specific time periods, and vice versa. The little ball at the left is a token, which links to a particular Last.fm user. The slider then maps onto a date range, say April 2005 to June 2012. At each point, it plays your most-played song that month, and displays the title and artist in the display. The use of tokens means that you can listen to other users’ music history, or even things like ‘the most-played hip-hop of the last ten years.’ As someone with a carful of mix CDs with labels like “May 2008″, I really loved this idea of having a temporal jukebox.

As of this writing, they’re not up, but full details of all the student projects should be here shortly.

Thanks to Mayo Nissen for the intro, and Alie Rose for the invitation to visit CIID.

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Mobile collaborative playlisting (a prototype)

March 19, 2010

One of my colleagues at Olin College, Mark Chang, teaches a course on Mobile Applications Development. Instead of a midterm exam, he runs a design contest. We invited Paul Lamere of Echo Nest to campus to talk about their APIs, and Mark’s students had ten days to build an app for the Android that used those tools – kind of like Music Hack Day. Mark was kind enough to ask me to be a judge, so I got to see all the great prototypes they came up with.

While all of the apps were excellent, the one that I thought had the most interesting concept was the DJMixr (by students Miguel Bejar, Rhan Kim, Hyeontaek Oh, and Poorva Singal), an app to make a collaborative playlist for a party. The app would allow guests to add songs to the playlist directly, and also would scrobble song information from the phone’s music player (it would be backed with a streaming on-demand music player, so it would only transfer the song information, not the songs themselves). The Echo Nest back end would be used to interpolate recommendations based on the seed songs, in order to allow smooth transitions between songs to avoid musical whiplash.

While this app is just a prototype, of course, one of the things I find intriguing about this is that it’s a different social model for the music at a party. Rather than having one person be responsible, or at best having people wandering over to a laptop between drinks to maybe add a song or two or change the Pandora station, an application like this would make it possible to have a truly collaboratively generated soundtrack to an event. It seems like there would be some interesting emergent behaviors, like maybe a metastable equilibrium between music for the people who want to dance and those dedicated to indie rock. What do you think?

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Music artwork for ever-shrinking canvases

March 12, 2009

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The theme for the current issue of Wired Magazine is ‘design under constraints.’ The canvas that designers have to play with for album art has gone from the luscious two-handed expanse of LPs, to CDs, to the literally thumbnail-sized images on iPods. Designer and author Steven Heller argues that designers need to step up to the challenge of designing compelling artwork in this 240-pixel space, and he provides some examples, above. Check out the short essay for a sense of where artwork for music has come from and where it’s going.

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The Decemberists want you to design a poster

February 25, 2009

hazardsofloveart

The Decemberists are headlining NPR’s opening night showcase at SXSW, where they’ll be playing the entirety of their new album The Hazards of Love, scheduled for release on the 24th. Their label, Capitol Records, has teamed up with Imeem to sponsor a contest to design a poster for the show. You can find full details here.

If you’re going to be in Austin, their show is at Stubb’s on Wednesday, March 18th. Even if you’re not in Texas, you can still get in on the act; NPR will be streaming them live at their SXSW site.

MP3: The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song [pre-order]

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