Midterm project, week 1: Observation

First, Diego, Filippo, and I met to talk about what we thought our project was going to be, how we would actually implement the idea, and what materials and research we’d need to do to get there.

Diego checking out the vintage iPod box I brought in as a visual aid for the shape of our thing:

I’m not sure what else we might have observed that would be truly relevant in the development of a gadget that doesn’t serve any real purpose, but we observed whatever we could think of.

What I think is significant about the cat thing is that it’s proof that, really, anyone can play a theremin. You don’t have to be human, you don’t need opposable thumbs, you don’t have to know anything about electricity or traditional musical instrument interfaces (though there is evidence that animals know more about electromagnetic fields that humans do, in some ways).

Filippo showing the Jon Spencer video:

The Jon Spencer video shows us a similar thing, but also introduces theatricality to the mix. Anyone, even a nonhuman, can play a theremin or thereminic instrument, but if you are a human and you have a sense of whimsy, you can play that instrument in a much greater variety of ways. Spencer shows that you can play a theremin with any part of your body. Probably the only other instrument that can boast such versatility is the drum, but even that is mostly theoretical. Yes, sure, you can strike a drum with your nose, but it’s going to hurt, so most people probably don’t do it. Playing a theremin with your nose is harmless, however. There is no penalty for eccentricity, except that if you flail around too much, you might stray out of the sensors’ range.

The loopqoob is also versatile—you don’t have to have fingers, necessarily, but they certainly help. Ditto for eyes—the markings on the loopqoob help you tell the sides apart, but do they really hint at what revealing each side does? No. Those patterns on the side probably respresent something, but the metaphors are not obvious.

And then, we observed actual, live humans using the IR-sensing thingummy on Diego’s Groovebox. Here’s Diego setting it up:

and here are various people trying to make sense of it.

Mostly, we learned that people like playing with IR sensors. But I think it’d be more interesting to be able to play one of these things with someone else—to introduce some more variety to the mix.

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