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ITP Spring Show 2008 » Square Band

Square Band

Rory Nugent

A portable square wave synthesizer that is worn around wrist to allow for a form of musical expression that is both ubiquitous and bodily.

Classes Studio (Physical Computing)

A wearable, portable square-wave synthesizer designed to be worn around the wrist so that he or she can be musically expressive whenever the moment strikes them.

Rows of buttons run along the underside of the wearer's wrist for triggering of musical tones and a light sensor is available for shifting the pitch of the tones being played. This design allows for a form of musical expression that integrates itself very intimately with the human body. Tapping with the fingers plays tones and movement of the wrist and arm shifts these tones in pitch up and down.

My idea originally sprouted from the desire to translate light into sound. This explains the presence of the solar cells. I played very much with various electronics circuits and components to get the sound I wanted and the most room for musical expression. I found that getting solar cells to play nice with these sound circuits was a big challenge and there was absolutely no room for music to be made. Taking sun light and reducing it to a single frequency was a shame and not quite as interesting as I would have hoped it would be. It was far too reductive.

Also, I wasn't interested in making a noise device so I took a step back, focused on the musical expression, settled the current circuit, and used the solar cells to power the device and give it the ubiquity I was looking for.

I'd like to say anyone, but I think it will mostly attract music nerds and technophiles.

User Scenario
The wearer turns her short bus commute into time to produce a new song.

A man walks on stage with only a synthesizer around his wrist.

As the monotony of the work day drudges on, a woman takes a few minutes to play notes feverishly along her wrist and jerk her body for the music.

As a portable musical instrument, it is built from a square wave oscillator and a frequency divider. The square wave audio signal is produced by the oscillator but divided into regular intervals so that the audio signal is no longer a drone but an array of musical octaves. These octaves can be trigger by buttons located on the underside of the wearer's wrist and the pitch of the octave can be shifted up and down depending on the light available to the individual photocell. So, the wearer can play a string of tones and shift the tones in pitch with the movement of their wrist.

The entire unit get its energy from a solar panel located on the top side of the wrist and is stored in a large capacitor. Energy is produced as the wearer goes about his or her day and it can even be placed near a strong light source for quick charging.

The wearable synthesizer surprisingly requires very little power and can operate within a wide power range.

The device was initially designed to be worn and used on-the-go. The wearer may be waiting for the bus, riding the train home from work, or simply adding a soundtrack to their daily activities.

However, as the device was conceived it has started to become more than just a toy for killing time. It has developed into a musical instrument that is far more expressive than originally thought.