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  • andywallace 8:13 pm on May 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Sound Balls 

             Sound Balls is an exploration of how people can create sound using a set of smart balls. I set out to create a non traditional method of sound generation the blends digital and non-digital elements in the form of a new audio toy. By manipulating a set of smart balls, users convert real world action into a fluid sound-scape that affords play and exploration as users learn the rules of the system while interacting with it. The balls themselves have unique attributes in both their hardware and the way the information from them is converted into sound, and the system as a whole has two unique modes of interaction: Free Form and Singing Bowl. The information is gathered from each ball by an implanted micro-controller and sent wirelessly to a computer where it is interpreted in order to create the sound.

    [Still waiting on the final edit, but this will do for now]

    Final Paper

    All code can be found here.

  • andywallace 7:23 pm on May 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Keep on Keepin’ on 

    My redefined thesis: Sound balls is an interactive and collaborative soundscape controlled by a set of smart balls.

    Since my last update, a lot of my work has gone toward building the physical ball. I coated one in resin, sanded it and painted it, and am fairly pleased with the look and texture. The resin I am using provides a hard and paintable outer layer for the ball and does not block the signal at all. I had originally planned on sanding the ball smooth, but as I went, I realized I liked the wavy grain that resulted, so I left it a little rough. The only thing that needs fixing is the hideous seem that runs along the ball. I will either be covering it with tape and painting it over or possibly filling it with foam.

    (More …)

    • Roslyn Pica 7:07 pm on May 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? whether way keep up the nice capability writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one today.

  • andywallace 1:43 am on May 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Testing testing testing. 

    Getting the balls into shape.

    For this test, I created 4 working balls: two gyroscope bals and 2 accelerometer balls. Unfortunately, the battery for one of the gyroscope balls went bad just before I started testing, so I was only able to use 3. Here’s some info gleaned about each type of ball.

    What went into each of the balls.

    (More …)

  • andywallace 10:15 pm on April 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    PDF of my presentaiton 

    Forgot to post this earlier: https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AcK8v3RzmLLmZDhzN3Z3d18zMDZwamc2ZzJmag&hl=en

  • andywallace 5:17 am on April 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Testing Out Other Types of Balls 

    This weekend I tested out a few alternate sensors to start using as well as assembling the parts I got in the mail.

    Let’s start with the new parts. Thom was kind enough to let me use his boarduino.

    Sadly, it needed too much power, and while I could get it transmitting with the xBee, it would only go in very slow bursts when running it off of my lithium batteries. His FTDI Friend, though, is very useful in programming my ardweenies, so thanks Thom!

    Teeny Tiny Ardweeny

    (More …)

  • andywallace 8:05 pm on April 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Updates! Testing! Balls! [Updated!] 

    A lot got done in the past few days for my project including getting multiple sets of xBees talking to each other, nixing the IR component of the project, some experimentation with Resin to coat the balls, two working prototypes, and some real live testers

    (More …)

  • andywallace 9:58 pm on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Set backs and a chart 

    The last two days have not been amazing for me, but I have gotten some work done. Unfortunately, I am already behind on the schedule I posted two days ago.

    I largely solved the serial problem I was having, which is good. In my test, I was just flooding the serial port by not waiting at all between messages. Upping the baud rate helped by letting the receiver come closer to being able to handle everything coming in, but it still wound up falling behind. This is probably why openFrameworks kept crashing.

    Saying "hi" way too many times per second.

    The solution was to have OF or whatever application needs the data actually make requests, so that information is only being sent when it needs to be.

    Getting the transmission of data working wound up taking far, far longer that I had expected, but seems to be working. I narrowed down the important atributes for each ball into the following variables.

    ID – int (0-6)- id number of the ball
    velocity – int (0-1024)- speed of the ball
    distance – int (0-1024) – distance to the next closest ball
    collision – int (0-1) – effectively a boolean saying if the ball has been hit or not
    (This last value is an int for the sake of transmitting it as a single byte, the same way everything else is)

    These values are determined by the arduino paired with each ball based on the sensor readings in the ball and some simple on board calculations.

    For actually sending things, I got some help from Christ (who recommended some very useful sections of Programming Interactivity) and Zach Lieberman. Each of these values are broken down into a byte or a series of bytes. ID & collision can fit into one byte each while velocity & distance each require two bytes (although an int is generally stored with 4). These bytes are sent individually when info is requested and put back together by OF. An arduino attached to my computer acts as the base station, mediating between the balls and OF.

    Working with the data at this level was very informative in terms of figuring out how the flow of information in my project would work. I can’t imagine deviating very far from this chart:

    This part was rewarding. but things went wrong from here on out.

    I tried to re-create my self contained wireless unit for the gyroscope to put it in the ball and test for collisions, but I believe I burned out my gyroscope. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I am getting no readings from it, and it seems to be providing no resistance when it is attached to power and ground, which causes problems for the arduino. I have a few more being mailed to me, but they are not here yet, and this means I may need to buy more, which I’m not thrilled about.

    This may have been the moment of death for my gyroscope

    That leads me to my other worry: shipping. I have two sparkfun orders on their way to my house at the moment, the oldest one should have been here today but wasn’t, and the one with my lithium batteries was not even placed until just a few days ago. Also, my order of adrweenies from Solarbotics (which I orderred  4/8 is not even due to reach my place until 4/19). When I orderred it, I only bought 4 because I wanted to make sure they worked before buying enough for my whole project, but if shipping takes that long, it isn’t realistic to plan on buying more from them. I may have to run around trying to find ardweenies that people have or use Lillypads for some of them.

    So it goes. Hopefully my new gyroscope will arrive today, and even if it doesn’t I can move ahead with the IR detection on the balls.

  • andywallace 4:06 pm on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Project Schedule 

    Today is 4/12
    The final project is due 5/9
    giving me roughly 4 weeks

    Thursday 4/14
    -Create sounds using gyroscope
    -recognize impacts
    -single pitch, volume based on velocity
    -Have people play with this

    Monday   4/18
    -Have the balls sense distance to other balls
    -research molds and other ways of creating the balls

    Thursday 4/21
    -Have 3 working balls, that make sound.
    -have interchangeable set of behaviors for the balls
    -Have lots of people play with these

    Monday   4/25
    -Refine balls based on the feedback
    -have a more specific idea of the final look/feel of the balls
    -behavior for pitch bending ball and memory ball
    -final parts order
    -keep testing

    Thursday 4/28
    -develop final look of the balls
    -Have at least one finished looking ball
    -keep testing

    Monday   5/2
    -Iterate based on feedback
    -develop alternate sound sets
    -keep testing

    Thursday 5/5
    -have 5 or 6 finished balls
    -final touches

    Monday   5/9

    Thursday 5/12


    • Lee 10:20 pm on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This is an ambitious project and I think you may want to push back some of your initial testing until the balls are more representational of the final product.

    • hilalkoyuncu 10:20 pm on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I feel like you are concentrating a lot on implementation which is important but I would work on look and feel a little bit earlier in the process.
      It looks loaded but it will be great if you can follow it.
      Good luck!

  • andywallace 2:39 am on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Sparkfun group order! 

    I’ll be placing an order around noon tomorrow (4/12). If you want to combine shipping on any parts you need, post it in the comments. If the price doesn’t run too high, I’m happy fronting the money and collecting on Thursday.

    • Oylum 3:04 am on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply


      I need

      • 3 Voltage Regulator – 3.3V. (sku: COM-00526)
      • 1 Force Sensitive Resistor – Square (sku: SEN-09376)

      That’s it for me

      • Oylum 3:05 am on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks by the way!

  • andywallace 2:19 am on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Gyroscopes! Infrared LEDS! Sounds! Balls! YOUR WILDEST DREAMS! 

    I dealt with a few things this weekend, so I’ll just start at the top.

    Wireless Gyroscope

    It looked like this, but with more tape.

    (More …)

    • Yury 2:45 am on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You are doing great work. Lots of distance covered on research, prototyping, experimentation.

    • Alvaro Soto 10:00 pm on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Andy, Ill post again when I have information about the foam coat that I told you in class, you can make some perforations at the end of the process, keep both half spheres separate and join them at the end with styrofoam glue.

    • lpercifield 10:06 pm on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      When I created a hollow ball last semester by casting a form in silicon. It worked pretty well but took a little time to cure. For the power switch you might look into a hall effect sensor that will turn the thing on and off with a magnet.

    • Alvaro Soto 10:51 pm on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This is the artist Chris talked about

    • andywallace 10:55 pm on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Some quick responses from presenting:

      -people seem to like the the sound changed ball.
      -Victor suggests using a cube for it, which think is a very good idea.

      -Balls that affect the sound the other balls make in general seem popular.

      -If I’m going to have the sounds switch, I’ll need to make other sound synths, which could be tough. I like the chime sounds I’m using now, and I’m not a sound person, so I worked pretty hard at them, but a few variants shouldn’t be too bad. An 8-bit collection could be fun, same goes for a set of brass sounds.

    • Alvaro 12:05 am on April 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Andy these are the two resins you could use to coat the styrofoam:

  • andywallace 2:48 am on April 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Problems with serial and OpenFrameworks 

    Hey guys,

    I’m trying to get my xbee to talk with openfFrameworks using the serial port, but it keeps freezing up my computer.

    I’m using the serial example that comes with openFrameworks and just changing the baud rate to 157,600 since that’s what seems to be working for my gyroscope. I get good data for a few seconds and then everything locks up an I have to restart.

    Anybody else experienced something like this or know what I might be doing wrong?

  • andywallace 5:55 am on April 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Gyroscope Vs Accelerometer 

    Tilt Sensors are still on their way, but my Sparkfun order came in today, along with some foam balls I orderred form Amazon! I didn’t get home until late, so I have not had too much of a chance to play with my new toys, but I did experiment a bit with the gyroscope and accelerometer as a way of getting the velocity of the ball (or at least something close enough to the velocity to fool any user).

    I set up simple openFrameworks app to monitor each sensor and see how it reacted to different movements. I really wanted to get each of them in a ball using xBee, but something is going wrong with one of my xBees. I’m going to look into it tomorrow. Instead, I put the gyroscope in the ball and used long wires to attach it to the Arduino. Unfortunately, this limited the movement a lot more than I was expecting it to, and the ball really is not free rolling at all.

    (More …)

  • andywallace 8:48 pm on April 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Hunting through patents 

    As Yury suggested last week, I dug around google.com/patents looking for things that relate to my project. I think I still need to get the hang of how to effectively search, but I did find some useful stuff.

    There are a lot of toy balls (especially for pets) that produce sound by pushing air or liquid through a tight space: Effectively a squeaker. Not exactly what I want to do for my project, but it is worth remembering that people have been making balls that make sound for a while.

    A slightly more useful one in this category was this patent that I immediately recognized form my childhood. This was used by Nerf to make foam footballs with a whistle on them. It didn’t change the use of the ball at all, but having a sound made the ball more fun, especially since the sound would be more intense with a faster throw. Still not making music, but definitely exploring play and sound generation.

    This interesting device is a ball that acts like a rainstick. It has an inner ball that creates a space between that inner sphere and the outer sphere that is filled with little particles that move over bumps on the inner balls surface as the ball move around. This was made for sue with young children and claims that the sound has a generally soothing effect.

    Getting closer to my project, this is a ball with a sensor to detect impact on it that makes a sound using a built in speaker when it is hit. This project was designed for use in sports and is not terribly clear about what kind of sound is made.

    This ball seems interesting, but I don’t know if it is really doing as much as the patent description would have you guess at first. Essentially, it’s a wooden flute-like object inside a ball that can be squeezed to send air through the flute. It was designed as a music/sound maker, though, which is definitely closer to what I’m doing.

    I’ll keep hunting, but this was largely good just for reminding me about the other more utilitarian reasons for having balls make sound (such as sports or pets), and the old school methods of doing so (such as mounting a bell inside).

  • andywallace 2:24 am on April 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Prior Art and Orderred Parts 


    This project is just amazing and makes great use of physical object t control sound.


    Another, more intuitive/easy to use sequencer that uses physical objects as parameters for the sound.

    Balls for iPhone:

    Obviously not the interaction I’m looking for, but the sound is really great.

    Also, over the weekend, I was able to speak with Tracy Gromek, who created smart balls as part of her thesis project. She used IR sensors as a way of determining the balls location, so I suspect I will do the same as it seems to be an effective and inexpensive way of accomplishing that goal. She agreed to show me her work, which should prove extremely valuable in developing my project.

    And on that note, I placed an order with Spark Fun for the IR LEDs and a few types of IR receivers as well as gyroscopes, accelerometers and a few other gadgets so I can test out the different sorst of data I can get form the balls. Also coming to my apartment via Amazon are varied types of foam and styrofoam balls to start playing with.

    Once everything arrives I want to build some balls and see what kind of info I get from the various sensors since that may well shape what kind of feedback I want to use to generate the sounds.

    • andywallace 11:57 pm on April 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This post does not include, but really ought to, a bit of strategy I got from Tracy Gromek when I spoke to her in term sof the IR sensors. The way she recommended doing it was to have each ball outfitted with several IR leds and several IR receivers in order to get the distance from each ball.

      Other useful information from today’s critique:

      I was concerned that the use of a laptop as a base station may make the project less mobile. Yury likes the idea of having the balls generate sound on their own, but this would require much simpler sounds. For the sake of rich sounds I’m fairly certain that I’ll be using the laptop. Especially since it will also allow me to get more information from each ball.

      One of the important bits of information I could access by doing that is having each ball know what kind of ball it is, which could allow for much deeper interaction between the balls if they have different sonic behaviors.

      Scott mentioned how easy it is to get things communicating using MIDI. Right now I’m using OSC, which is certainly robust, but MIDI definitely deserves to at least be looked into since it is so universal.

      Lief is aware of a hack to get the Xbee to connect directly to the iphone. This would allow an iphone to act as a base station instead of a large laptop. That would be great, but may be outside of the scope of this project. Certainly a good thing to keep in mind if I continue on this project.

      The conscious on my sensors seems to be that IR leds are the way to go, and that while gyroscope and accelerometer could be cool, they might not be necessary. A few $1 tilt sensors may do just as good a job (although Thom mentioned that centrifugal force may mess up the tilt sensors). Getting the cost down would be great for making more balls in the future, and these are supplies I could go out and buy in the next days.

  • andywallace 10:19 pm on March 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Prototyping Triangle 


  • andywallace 9:13 pm on March 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Domain map! 

    I included Haunted Frdige, because I do like the idea, but I am fairly confident that I will be pursuing the Sound Balls as my final.

    I am developing an OpenCV version to test out the interaction while determining the best ways to make the balls “smart.”

  • andywallace 8:05 pm on March 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    9 Amazing Prototypes 

    Of my 6 ideas, I decided to focus on Haunted Fridge, the shoot-em-up game that uses real world energy use to generate levels, and Sound Ball (working title), a set of physical balls that can be manipulated to create sound and music.


    Haunted Fridge Role
    Haunted Fridge should be a casual game. One of the reasons people would want to play is to see the levels inadvertently created by their friends. This could also lead to peer pressure to be more energy efficient as people become more acutely aware of the energy habits of themselves and the people around them.

    Sound Balls Role
    In addition to free form play, the Sound Balls could be used in a performance setting. Most likely this would be alongside other instruments, either electronic or not. Both the surface they are being used on and the gestures used to manipulate the balls would contribute to the performance.


    Sound Balls Role 2
    The Sound Balls afford free form play and exploration. If made available in an inviting place, people could interact with them, making amusing sounds and learning the system. The balls should create pleasing sounds no matter what happens to them, to make play fun without any introduction beng necessary, but should also allow more advanced users to to have some purposeful control over the sounds being made.

    (More …)

    • victor 8:46 pm on March 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      first picture. AMAZING

      • victor 8:47 pm on March 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        no wait, second picture. AMAZING

    • andywallace 10:12 pm on March 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Question: What was the easiest thing about the 9 prototypes. What was the hardest?

      Figuring out the roles was probably the hardest. I know what I want my projects to do, but I’m not always exactly sure how they would fit into people’s lives. Obviously, it’s a question I need to answer, but it was tricky to actually work it out in a way that wasn’t me saying what it does or how it does it. My relative inability as a free hand artists was not helpful for that.

      The easiest was probably the Sound Balls implementation prototypes. Although they took me a fair amount of time to make (especially the second one), I found the work really interesting. Actually trying to express what I want the project to do caused it to go very quickly through a few iterations as I played and found what kind of interactions were interesting or fun versus the kind that felt stagnant.

  • andywallace 4:15 am on March 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    6 Amazing Ideas 

    Each one better than the last.

    Here are some potential ideas for a final:

    This is an extension of my last project. Users would play a shoot-em-up game that spawns enemies and other level elements based on their actions within their homes and the actions of their friends. This would be a social game that people would play as much to compare their scores against their friends as for the challenge.

    Mobile Oven would be an app that allows the user to control their oven and stove top from a distance. If a person is nervous that they left a burner on, they could check the app and either be sure they didn’t or turn it off right from where they are. They could also use the app to have the oven preheat when they know they are coming home.

    Shadow Bot would be a game played using a robot that follows the lines created by shadows. The goal of the game would be to direct the bot to a specified location. I’m not sure if this game would be played cooperatively or competitively. It would most likely be played by children.

    This is another game for children. Kids playing in a ball pit would know that there is one special ball, which looks just like the others. Whenever that ball is moved (either directly or by the balls around it) it lets out a chirp. If somebody finds it and is holding it, it makes a victory sound and that kid is the winner. If this were at a Chuck-Cheese type environment, the finder might receive some prize.

    These would be a collection of roughly pool ball sized balls that create sound and music based on their proximity to each other and other actions. It would function as a set of toys for adults (such as would be sold on thinkgeek), being to complex (and most likely pricey) for kids, but capable of creating interesting play for adults as they experiment and find what sounds can be made.

    The concert locator is for people who get lost at concerts. Each person would have a small device that they could use to tell when they are getting closer to their missing friend. It would comunicate with pulses or light so that hearing it would not be an issue.


    And here are the projects mapped to their domains:

    1- Appliance Game
    2- Mobile Oven
    3- Shadow Bot
    4- Ball Pit Game
    5- Sound Balls
    6- Concert Locator

    • scottpeterman 4:25 pm on March 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Ooh! Shadowbot could be really neat if you played it in teams, and if the bot ever didn’t have anywhere to go, it would start heading back to the start line, so you’d always have to have a continuous line of shadow made by your team. Very cool idea.

    • breegeek 12:39 am on March 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I love the sound billiards idea.

      Also, the shadow game reminded me of this awesome kid’s book I saw on shelves recently http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Suzy-Lee/dp/0811872807

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