"Hit & Roll" (2012)

New musical interface

Class project

collaborated with Jade Yuen

Skills/ Software implemented: Arduino, 3D modelling and printing, AudioMulch

My role: Interaction Design, Hardware Design, Programming, Prototyping


I still remember the struggles and frustration I encountered when I took the piano class at a very young age - playing piano was simply too hard for a 5-years-old to handle with limbs that were still under development. I simply gave up on learning after months of disappointing lessons and playing experience. Since then the frustration barred me from music playing until I started working on "Hit & Roll"

"Hit & Roll" is a project developed under LUME, a lab directed by Dr. Samson Young which researches and develops technology enabled musical interfaces for those with special musical needs. Samson targeted at developing musical interfaces for young children in 2012. As someone who understands the frustration encountered by young children when learning instruments, I immediately started working on the project with Jade, and hoped that we would create something that will make a difference in a young user's music learning experience.

At first the two of us were too excited about implementing our newly gained knowledge in physical computing, thus worked on a design that is too complicated. After failure in first prototyping test and evaluation we came up with a different direction - Most traditional musical instruments require dexterity in playing as well as years in training to master. We wanted our design to be the exact opposite - the playing should be simple and the instrument should be easy to master. After going through a few phases of brainstorming and design, we eventually reached the final decision of developing "Hit & Roll".   

As mentioned, young children are easily frustrated when they have to play an instrument which requires dexterity in control as their limbs are not fully developed yet. Therefore simplifying the playing action was the key in our instrument design. Through research, we discovered that 3 of the easiest actions for children to complete are 1) Pressing and hitting 2)Pushing 3)Lifting. Considering the size and strength of the limbs of our young users, we decided to keep the size of our instrument handy and light. Eventually we set on using cylinder as the form of our instrument as it would be easy to hold and grab for our users. Then we integrated the sensors which correspond to the actions mentioned above in the cylinder and turned our cylinder into an instrument.

Testing with the first prototype

Testing with the first prototype

Three different sensors were implemented on the design of the instrument. First we added a button on the end of the cylinder to detect any hitting or pushing. Then a knob was installed inside the cylinder which can generate changes in readings as user twists or rotates the cylinder. Finally we included an accelerometer which detects how fast is the user moving or lifting the cylinder. In the second prototype, the accelerometer was installed in an additional glove as our prototype did not have enough room for all the sensors. However in the second prototyping test we discovered that wearing an additional glove was inconvenient for the users of our instrument. Therefore we decided to integrate all the sensors into a customised cylinder so that the convenience in playing the instrument and user experience for our users would be enhanced.

In order to meet all our requirements in triggering the sensors, we prototyped our instrument using 3D modelling and printing. Each part was carefully designed with appropriate measurements as well as keys in triggering all three specific sensors. For aesthetic concern, we even designed an individual stand to hold the instrument as well as the arduino. With a few trials and errors, we eventually succeeded and created the finalised prototype of our instrument. Then we mapped the specific readings from each sensor to different tunes that we hoped our young users will enjoy - for instance the button was mapped to a sound of an extra ringing bell; the knob was mapped to the volume control of the tune; and the accelerometer was mapped to a tune which resembles the kazoo.

And finally we named our instrument "Hit & Roll".

"Hit & Roll"

In the industry night, "Hit & Roll" was played and enjoyed by children at kindergarten age as well as some adults. As the playing actions designed are simple, it was very easy for our users to play some music with the instrument within minutes after picking up the instrument. For the result, please check the documentation video at the top of the page.