Chinazo Anakwe
Edwin Reed-Sanchez

The Chromatics Dome

The Chromatics Dome: an immersive, sensorially stimulating experience in which you can hear colors and see sounds, in real time!

Introduction to Computational Media,Introduction to Physical Computing

The Chromatics Dome is an immersive, simulation of Chromasthesia, which is more commonly known as “Sound-to-Color” Synesthesia. We have designed a dome to house a user-controlled color wheel, that allows the participant to determine if the sound they are hearing corresponds to their idea of the color they are seeing. A projection of color appears in front of the user and a sound is played, if the user agrees with the tone, they press "Enter" if not they can chose to go "Up" or "Down." At the end of the color choices, they press "Play" to hear their very own "Chromatics" progression and see their sounds in color.

This project evolved through our Physical Computing Midterm, where we first began working on "The Chromatics Dome." We both wanted to create an immersive, audio–visual experience. The idea evolved from Rena's web-based "Mood Ring" which was an assignment in Shawn Van Every's Comm Lab Web class. From user testing and an inquiry from our Physical Computing teacher, Tom Igoe, we were challenged to play a guessing game. One of us played a note that represented what we thought "Red" was for the other person, they would say "yes" or "no" and so on, through R.O.Y.G.B.I.V. This led us to dig deeper into what Synesthesia was, and from our enthusiastic user testers, we found that they wanted more control and options for the notes so, we put it in their hands.

From a design standpoint, Edwin wanted to incorporate the essence of the mood ring, but with a nostalgic feel. It resembles the experience of old carnival games, or World faire exhibits of the turn of the century, and he is very fond of Chicago’s "World Columbian Exposition of 1893."

We both agreed on a Geodesic Dome, as it's encapsulates a geometrically intricate yet comforting and aesthetically pleasing structure.

Synesthesia is something that Rena was interested in from an NPR broadcast, and upon her and Edwin's research we realized that Chromasthesia was something we could replicate. A few users closed their eyes, in user testing so that was a huge factor in creating an immersive environment. The selection and recording was done manually for user testing, so we decided that this should be a feature of the our programming.

Logging the data also gave us a more accurate perception of what our project was, from outside eyes, and also gave us more interaction for our users with the color and sound.

The scent is an observation and a more casual test, that we did the week after Thanksgiving. Rena ordered some essential oils and has been spraying willing participants with Lavender Oil and other essential oil blends, all aimed at changing moods in a positive direction.

We are especially interested to know if those who have color-blindness and those who may be tone-deaf are as affected as those who do not.

All Ages (Young children [5yrs-11yrs], need to be assisted by a Parent.)

User Scenario
User enters the Chromatics Dome, takes a seat and hears the audio instructions. They begin turning the color wheel and selecting their sound choices. Upon completion, their selections are played back with them, and mist of essential oils is emitted into the air. They are asked to fill out how they felt, on a card, in one word, drop it in the box (we will have for "After Chromatics) and have a cathartic experience from their time in the world we created for them.

The Dome: Our eco-friendly, geodesic dome is constructed with Bamboo struts, leg supports of Bamboo and Wood, and hand-made connectors made with plumber's-tape, secured with hot-glue and zip tie reinforcements.

The Covering: We constructed a breathable Cotton (w/ 10% Spandex) covering for the outside of the dome.

The Color Wheel & Sound Controls: The Color Wheel is constructed of Wood and recycled Plexi Glass, with a potentiometer installed in the base. The Sound Controls were created out of Laser cut Wood and installed with Arcade Buttons and hand etched labels.

The Scents: We are hacking into an Air Freshener filled with a mixture of essential oils and filtered water, that will trigger once the color song is played.

The Code/Mechanics: Arduino sends the potentiometer values to a Processing Sketch, which is projected on the inside of the dome. The user selects the sound that matches their color and these values are also sent from the Arduino to Processing. The Values are saved in a .csv/.txt file, reloaded back into the Processing Sketch and will play the Sounds from a Midi Library.

Simple is better! The construction of the dome overtook our programming of the dome, which set us back in our presentation of our Chromatics Dome as a Final Project. At first both of us were involved in the fabrication but we decided it was best to divvy up the tasks in an effort to be more efficient and complete the project. Edwin was point for most of the Construction and Rena was point for Programming/Code. We of course had to then split that up again, when more polished components were added. Rena sewing the cover and Edwin wiring the Arduino.

The programming has taken many turns and with the help and encouragement of Mimi Yin, Rena was able to push herself and create the sketch and break it many times. The initial sketch that Edwin made served as a simplified version prototype (a button pressed, changed the color of the screen) that Rena evolved into the geometric visual and sound mapped sketch that appears in the dome today.

Haggling is good, and you can get a lot of things for free if you just ask. Most of our materials were sourced from random finds, in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Our project was quite affordable, due to bargaining skills and research.

Sound can be made in so many ways, so it was hard to pick just one. We also broke everything. This was humbling and frustrating at times, but it was better that we broke everything before we let others play in the dome, as we were able to fix these issues or decide to get rid of them, in order to make a stronger experience.