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came up with a nice thesis title….

kinky = catchy = good?

so…. what does the internet think? too kinky?


whoooooa, sometimes the open source community really lands some nice presents in your lap: i give you cantarino — a speech synthesis project for the arduino

this – in theory – means that i can add speech synthesis to my project. making an mutated, interactive version of one of my favourite art pieces listening post a future possibility with this platform. nice.

2 weeks ago we were asked to finalize our design challenge, and answer some questions about our project. here is what i came up with:

Catchy title

  • open chip tunes

A more descriptive tagline

  • can we bridge the open source and chip-tunes community, while applying it to state of the art, open hardware, to create a new a de-central compositional platform? a research in to the field of open communities, open design processes and open source hardware.

I’m interested in/inspired by…

  • open source hardware.
  • the evolution of the design process when entering the world of rapid prototyping and copy paste-able designs.
  • working with limitations.
  • repurposing technology.
  • working with data structures on the terms of the data structures.
  • data, sound and communication visualization
  • interface design.
  • distributed intelligence and composition.
  • distributed design.
  • nature / evolution / chaos.
  • being part of something bigger. I can contribute something, the idea, the outline, but many others can contribute to this idea as well, and essentially I never know where it is going next. I like this.

Design challenge:

  • Make an open source platform for composing and performing music, which is cheap and accessible, building upon the approach and knowledge gained in the chip tunes community.
  • Allow myself to be playful and experiment.
  • Work with simplicity and constraints, rather than a feature driven focus.
  • Remember that the beauty and complexity of natures perfection is built upon co-existence of many simple and different units, rather than one central computational design.
  • Embrace chaos.
  • Work towards a presentation form which works in an artistic context, while also showcasing the product.
  • Prototype, prototype, prototype!

And from a more philosophical point of view:

  • Is it possible to design for open source hardware? Or is this a contradiction in terms?
  • Is it possible to benefit from the energy of two similar communities, and two bridge the two in a project which draws on the competences of users in both communities?
  • How does one make a project appealing to the open source approach?
  • How can I open and document my design in a way, that makes it appealing for other people to take part in?

what value do you want to deliver with your design and to whom?

  • working in hardware gives me the benefit of actually designing hadware suited for music composition and performance. chiptune instruments are inherently hacked generic gaming consoles, suited hardware-wise best for gaming, not playing music.

are you designing for the present, for the near future, or for a long term one?

  • all in one. hopefully I can create something which is useful as a performance / composition tool and inspiration right now. in the near future I could see people updating the code and the hardware to optimize the platform. and in the long term it would be beautiful if I could have added my little push towards a more democratized design domain, and open source hardware in general.

what technology are you relying on?

  • arduino. programming. circuit bending. experimenting, possibly gathering inspirations from theories on artificial and distributed intelligence.

which are the key stakeholders in the domain of your project?

  • the open source community, the chip tunes community, the circuit bending community. musicians I know interested in testing the designs. myself.

what has already been done in this domain that could inspire/limit your concept?

  • the OP-1 from teenage engineering is a very cool product, that does many of the – things I am aiming for. but it is closed source and terribly expensive
  • loud objects. super cool noise project based on very simple and open hardware – designs. but very noisy and chaotic.
  • and many many more, wayyyyy to many to mention here. check my delicious links for more fantastic projects.

in which direction to you want to push the boundaries of the interaction design practice?

  • from a more theoretical perspective I am very interested in the dissolving the traditional design role. I would love to create something for other to join in to. something for people to co-create, imitate and mutate.
  • from a pratical perspective I am very interested in becoming skilled at producing object and working with methods and technologies that allow my ideas to be easily reproduced and mass-produced.

man i’m fucked by the internet: i am currently working on a small asus eee 900, since my zepto burned down. although the eee is sweet and all, ever since i upgraded to ubuntu 9.04, it’s gotten some serious problems with wireless internet at school. fuck.

[EDIT: this seems to be a general problem, as my classmate has the same problems with his powerbook and OSX. so, now i have asked IT support to open an ethernet port in the studio. back to wired internet…]

i realized yesterday i hadn’t posted anything to this blog for more than a month and i attribute this to the fact that the internet connection i am dealing with is so dreadful at school. (i am writing from home now. grrr)

also, this sunday (and some of yesterday night) i spent surfing the shiny, shiny internet, and found sooooo many cool related projects (see my delicious links) — projects i simply haven’t seen before, because of crappy internet access.

so here goes internet wizards, hear my cry: help! i need internet!!

the rest of this day is dedicated to getting a somewhat decent internet hookup on my eee.

wow… found marc nostromos article on the create digital music site… he really nails some of the considerations and needs i found related to this project. well worth a read. from the article:

Although it (DIY hardware synth projects) might seem limited compared to software synths, it also has dimensions that a lot of virtual instruments lack. I’ll call these qualities depth and exclusivity.

Depth: When you turn a pot on this hardware, you’re really in control. You may argue there’s a lot of controllers out there, but compared to the 1024-level resolution of the Arduino, standard MIDI Control Changes turn out to be bogus for smoothly controlling parameters. Just playing with the default FM patch of the Arduino piano makes it obvious.

Exclusivity: When you play with hardware like the Arduino piano, it’s the only thing you do. You can’t fire Google or start reading your mail, and I think it’s really valuable. Every music “tool” should be able to immerse you enough so that the rest of the world doesn’t exist. All computer-based synths have failed to do that for me.

mark nostromo is also the father of the LSDJ clone, piggytracker, and so, quite a hero on the chip scene.

just to get a feel for what i was doing, and to easier explain the concept to the non-chiptune savvy, i hacked together a little prototype of what i am pondering


nothing is wired together, nothing is working. but it feels really nice to hold it. 🙂

to check my initial sketchings of the idea, check this link:

the following is my latest rendering of my research questions, along with some notes on the design methods i would like to implement and some background considerations

research questions

  • is it possible to create a low-cost, easily modifiable / open, input / output device based on the arduino / open source community?
  • can this input device be manufactured and sold as a product?
  • can i apply techniques and aesthetics from the 8-bit community to a more modern microcontroller, harvesting the knowledge from old machines, transporting them unto a new, easily modifiable and available platform?
  • can i connect the 8bit community with the arduino community? can synergy arise from this coupling?

design methods and approach

i would love to make something which works in its own right, as a standalone “product”, but also i am deeply interested in scaleability and distribution of intelligence.

so for my thesis i would like to work on two levels:

  1. working on a hardware unit, which can be standalone but open to communication with other units. it should be possible to replicate the unit, thus allowing me to create a network of units which is scaleable.
  2. working on a performance / installation based on the unit(s) — by thinking the unit in to a bigger context, i will push myself towards making better single units and hopefully working with the single unit will inspire my ideas for the installation as well.

working through iterations:

what happens to the design process when i do several iterations over a physical protoype? how does the continuing ping-pong between hardware design and artistic performance ideas benifit from each other?


combining open source and 8bit would be amazing — successfully bringing chip to the masses!!

i love the concept of using old machines, like the gameboy for making music — tweaking hardware that is completely silly (by modern standards) to make amazing sounds is just pure magic. its about the creativity of having boundaries. also it is about learning to love the machine, getting a feel for the sound chip.

but it is more than this. it is also about sustainability and taking a political stand. i refuse to buy a powerbook: my crappy laptop should have plenty of processing power when my gameboy can do it!

funny thing happens when repurposing the chip becomes hip. like the commodore64 sound chip, the SID 6581, has suddenly become really hard to find (even though the commodore64 is the most popular home computer in history), because people are harvesting the chips, selling them on ebay etc. and people dig the retro aspect. so now people are paying A LOT for obsolete machinery. strange.

for a examples of 8bit culture and music made on gameboys / outdated machines, goto or

also, you could stop by my band la belle indifference’s myspace page – we make music primarily using nintendo gameboy

OK, so i have now gone through the two first weeks of my thesis project — a lot of different ideas have been tested, sketched, discarded and re-configured. i’ve turned away from the very simplistic and organically driven installation type project, towards a more traditional product development assignment with materials and technologies i am familiar with. after all, i only have two and a half months to do all of this. phew.

along the way i did some testing with toys, misc rubber balls with motors in them, and the result was too vague and hard to control for me. i am very interested in communication between objects, and so it seems obvious that i should use some kind of platform which can display txt. following up on some initial research done during the dubmate project, i have decided to build an open input/output platform, based on cheap and available hardware and software. this will (hopefully) allow me to produced objects enough to experiment within the fields of distributed intelligence, and also it will offer me an oppotunity to work on my skills as a product designer, creating PCBs, casing and documentation.

all in all i am really thrilled and happy about the way this project is turning out.

things are moving fast, concepts change, prototypes are tested, and new ideas are constantly developed. so im sorry if not all updates make to this blog…

one place to follow the most current stuff i am producing is through my flickr account (a have made a dedicated thesis process set) and my delicious thesis bookmarks – they are integrated in the bottom of this page

just set up a date this thursday to go see what the students of DTU have done with the danfoss polypower material. im considering using this funky material for my thesis; it can contract, expand, act as a sensor. wow.

below is a video of a cylindrical speaker built by the students.