Sitting in a ride-share vehicle, I saw multiple riders tap their fingers differently to the same song on the radio; the driver had a heavy bass with his thumb, the girl to his right had a steady strum from index to pinky finger.
Personos was an exploration of visualizing this otherwise unseen action and interpretation of music. It was also a way to expand my abilities in construction, data visualization, coding, and physical computing.
How might we share a more universal expression of music?
While we cannot all play instruments or dance gracefully, the audial and physical enjoyment of music is nearly universal, and finger-tapping is unique, intuitive way of doing this in which almost everyone can participate.
We wondered, what would it look like if we could see a visualization of these taps happening in real time?
Visual and Product Design
Product Construction and Coding
“Woah. Wait, can I try?”
— Observer/User Feedback
Under the hood
The hard-working process under the solution
Through prototyping and iteration, we discovered what felt most natural and playful for users.
Research & Synthesis
While this was more of a fun passion project than one rooted in deep research or user interviews, we did to a study of existing, similar interfaces and projects to see where we might improve or differentiate.
Ideation & Prototyping
Initially, light sensors (photocells) were used to sense the tapping of each finger. However, through testing, we discovered that while this was technically functional, it didn't evoke the playful and pleasant experience we wanted for users. The benefit of photocells was that they were very sensitive, catching even the lightest of taps, where other sensors required more force than a user might naturally emit while tapping.
Iteration & User Testing
In the end, force sensitive resistors (FSRs) were used, solving the problem of adequate sensitivity by using buttons with convex bottoms that concentrated tapping force. An acrylic pad set with these buttons allows anyone to walk up and immediately use the device. The board can also be flipped and buttons removed easily for left-handed or right-handed users.
Modern magic with a tip-of-the-hat to traditional instruments.
We wanted Personos to feel like something you would walk up to and clearly feel like you should touch or play. We keep the general feeling of a piano in color and other instruments in tactile surface and round buttons. We wanted it to feel magical and intuitive, keeping the natural relationship between human and sound at the center of the interaction.
What Lies Ahead
Looking back to move forward
Personos allows users to share a visual of their interpretation of music playfully and easily.
One of the exciting things I noticed while working on Personos was the new excitement generated by seeing a visual of an otherwise unseen action: tapping to music. During testing, users wanted to look up other music, the sort they didn't normally listen to, just to see how their reaction might look. Users took interest in classical music tapping who normally only listened to pop and vice-versa; they analyzed their own patterns and started to ask questions.
In the future I plan to enhance and build out Personos in order to foster and enhance this curiosity, potentially as a way to further engage children in listening to classical music. It has also served as a way-in for certain parts of my thesis research and prototyping.