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James the conductor suit

(7 weeks, Q3, 1st year of IT, 2009)
This page is about a project we made in Physical Design spring 2009.

An overview of the final prototype

Introduction to the conductor suit

James the conductor suit is a proposal of the future interactive kids toy. The suit makes the user able to compose and direct a virtual orchestra and play all kinds of music by moving the body. The prototype was made in a course called Physical Design, on the 1st your of the IT bachelor education on AU (Aarhus Uni). The focus of the course was the physical aspects and how the product affords and invites the user to make certain gestures, which in our case is gestures that a conductor would make. At the same time we was also taught about sensors as a technical part of the course. This technical aspect was used to realize a prototype in order to show our concept.

Demo of James

Below is a video demo of the suit.

Making the conductor suit

Brainstorm/choosing the concept

The subject for the project was “music in kids rooms”. We started the project with a brainstorm to come up with ideas for our concept. From our many ideas we chose 8 and developed different concepts from these ideas. From these we chose one by comparing them with each other and focusing on making something innovative and exciting.

Illustration of the concept that eventually became James

Product development

From the chosen idea we first test the concept technically. The sensors we wanted to use was temporarily mounted on a primitive suit for painting, and the functions of the concept could thereby be adjusted and made ready for the prototype. Since we were also to focus on the physical design of the suit we looked at multiple different shapes but ended up choosing the swallowtail since it clearly indicates the role of the person in the suit and creates an identity of a conductor.

Testing the technology

Making the prototype

The prototype is a suggestion for what the final conductor suit could like and how it might work. The software is written in Java and the sensors used is Phidgets which can be connected directly to a computer by USB. The suit itself is from a charity shop and the details together with the sensors was sewn on by us.

Technology in the conductor suit

Badges/RFID

On the left side of the suit are three areas which can read the id of badges. This makes the user capable of choosing his/her own instruments by replacing the badges, which represents instruments such as guitar, drums and piano. The colors on the three areas are related to the three colors of the diodes on the right arm to give a logical connection between pointing direction and the instruments.

Accelerometers

There is an accelerometer in both hands of the suit for measuring the movement of the hands/arms. These measurements are used by the software to read gestures and use these as input to control the music by conductor-like movements. An instrument can for example be started by pointing in the direction of the instrument and making a rhythm in the air with the right hand.

Diodes

The diodes, which are placed on the right arm, are there to give a visual feedback on the direction that you are pointing. So for example green is to the right, red is straight ahead, and yellow is to the left. The reason for the different colors is to give a connection to the badges so that the user is able to see what instrument is in each of the three directions. We have placed the diodes so that they are always visible to the user.

The force sensor

In the back of the conductor suit is a force sensor inside a plate, which is used to measure when the user kicks him-/herself in the behind. This “movement” is used to change the sequence of the sound of the instrument that the user is pointing at. The reason for this funny gesture is to make the interaction more playful and kid-friendly.

Video from “forskningens døgn”

Here is James in action at the event “forskningens døgn”: