HCI, User interfaces

Week 5 Update: Interface Designing

This week the weather has been consistently raining… which has made staying inside and reading articles a lot easier! Here is what I have been reading about this week:

Interaction Design and Human Computer Interfaces

Some interesting papers that I have read this week are from researchers at Queen Mary University in London and they have looked at the dynamics of musical interaction: both between performers in a collaborative environment and between the performer and instrument themselves which can be found here and here [1], [2]. Some interesting themes have emerged, such as the former paper’s aims of making a piece of technology that engages both novices and computer musicians alike. The latter also talks about technology’s need to be certain properties like intuitive, unobtrusive, enticing but also how some tensions can arise in this, e.g. designing something that is unobtrusive yet still enticing.

In these papers, they also mention one piece of highly interactive technology from a team at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona that has been developed called the reacTable:

The reacTable* in action at a conference [3]
This is an example of one of many tabletop user interfaces and has been somewhat successful since its introduction in 2006. Next week I will look further into the conception and design of this and what has worked well and what hasn’t – so stay tuned for that! This also has given me an idea about using tangible interfaces for music production. I really like the modular nature of the table and how you can synthesize sound from the different “modules,” similar to the musical trinkets research that I discussed in an earlier post.

A lot of the papers that I have been reading have diverged away somewhat from my initial research in interactive sonification. However, one area of current research that interests me is human-computer interaction and specifically the ways that we as musicians interact with technology to enhance music composition and I might consider researching into user-interfacing and interaction and how it affects both sonification and music composition.

Choosing a microcontroller 

One of the biggest tasks that will come about from the work that I will be doing will be creating some sort of tangible interface (and hopefully testing this on unsuspecting members of the public). To do this, I need to consider the hardware requirements in my literature review also.

Having read through some of the literature online, I have had a chance to see how some of the technologies have been made. For this project, as my time is limited, using a micro controller (a small computer integrated into a single integrated circuit) might be a useful way to get a high level of functionality in a short space of time. Three main micro-controllers that can be used are the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and BBC’s micro:bit. The article below explores some of the main benefits/drawbacks of each.


Also, on an aside, I got the chance to play with the sonicules game that has been developed by the team at the University of York. This is allows users to interact with the sonification of drug molecules. Part of this was using a 3D mouse to explore the virtual chemical environment. It was compelling to have a play with and see how others were interacting with the technology also. The idea of how intuitive a piece of technology was seen here in action when occasionally performing one movement with the mouse was counterintuitive to what some people would have thought and intuitive for others. Overall the game seemed really fun and intriguing and will definitely have some applications to the work that I might choose to do.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 21.56.51
Trying to fit the target enzyme with sound: easier than having to do it visually


Let me know in the comments below if you have any opinions on which microcontroller might be best for an interactive system like this and what your opinions on the reacTable technology are!



[1] B. Bengler and N. Bryan-Kinns. “Designing collaborative musical experiences for broad audiences.” Proceedings of the 9th ACM Conference on Creativity & Cognition. ACM, 2013.

[2] J. G. Sheridan and N. Bryan-Kinns. “Designing for performative tangible interaction.” International Journal of Arts and Technology 1.3-4 , 2008, pp.288-308.

[3] S. Jordá et al.  “Reactable | Music Technology Group”. Available online: http://mtg.upf.edu/project/reactable Accessed: May 2017.



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