If you want to understand the future of interfaces, use your ears. Sound design has become a wildly experimental area in recent years, full of devices that ask us to reconsider how we interact with technology.
Audio design can be a playground for designers. Take a speaker, for instance. It’s the perfect canvas for experimentation: Most speakers only have few commands–on/off, volume, changing channels or songs–and their internal tech is relatively simple and inexpensive. So perhaps it’s no surprise that in recent years, more and more designers have chosen sound as their medium of experimentation–so much so that the Design Museum Holon is devoting an entire exhibition to them: Sound and Matter in Design. To see a glimpse at the avant-garde interfaces of the future, all you have to do is listen.
When Speakers Are…Squishy?
Noise Jelly is a project by French designers Raphael Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard that turns blobs of jelly into musical instruments when they’re placed on top of Arduino sensors. The designers imagine it as a game, where players make the jelly themselves, mixing it with different food coloring that also corresponds to different types of sound. When the jellies are placed onto a connected board, they bleep and bloop, acting like instruments you can play by rearranging them.
To Play This Instrument, Dance
Created by the Polish design and art collective panGenerator, Dodecaudion is an interactive instrument that reacts to your body and hands. You play it without ever touching it–simply by moving around it in a dance. It responds to movement using an infrared sensor and uses that data to manipulate sound–an artful example of the increasing ubiquity of connected objects in our world.
Screen Printing Sound With Conductive Ink
The project Liquid Midi uses conductive paint to make music with nothing but fabric and Arduino controllers. Created by the Budapest-based art and technology lab EJ Tech, the project gestures toward the possibilities of malleable surfaces being digitally manipulated. “The flexibility of screen printing a working interface onto a bendable surface and being able to control digital devices and applications through it, opens doors to infinite possibilities, allowing to indulge in an hyper-connected, interwoven user experience,” the collective writes on its website.
A Ceramic Speaker With Palladium Buttons
Don’t let this ceramic vase fool you–it’s actually a radio. Created by the French designers Raphael Pluvinage and Celia Torvisco, the vase-radio is called Hibou. It’s coated in palladium paint, which makes it conductive and makes the subtle decor of the vase functional. If you touch the top, the radio will turn on, and you can channel surf by touching the beautiful details along the top edge, which change the radio’s frequency. Run your finger along the side, and the volume rises and falls.
Poke To Play
This gorgeous speaker created by the Korean designer Eunhee Jo, on view in Holon, features a clever tactile interface. But it’s not just pushing buttons–to turn down the volume, you push your finger into the middle of the speaker, where the fabric gives way under your touch. To change between tracks, you perform a similar action, but left to right. Its very appropriate name? Surface Matters.
A Squishy Symphony
This flat, bowl-like object–called Synchrony–doesn’t look anything like a musical instrument. But when you press your fingers into its squishy top, with different physical locations corresponding to different notes and slight ridges indicating the pitch, you make beautiful music. The instrument was designed by Kenneth Tay to act as a musical therapy tool for children with autism and their parents.
A Tapestry Of Sound
Interfaces may one day be woven into our clothes–and this gorgeous, interactive sound tapestry offers a glimpse at what that experience might be like. Called Contours, the hanging fabric is striped with white conductive paint embedded with sensors that detect movement. As a person moves around the tapestry, a soundscape reacts based on their bodies.
Created as a collaboration between the London-based lab Bare Conductive (which makes conductive paint and sensors) and the designers Fabio Antinori and Alicja Pytlewska, the fabric installation points to how interfaces may one day react to us more intimately, tracking our movements as data, and creating a more reactive world.