The time has come to do a review of the main project of 2nd years second semester, the interaction design project where we had to produce a product which either created or reacted to music. This is what was said about it at the time:
Wood’s Electric Aviary is the team name for our Interaction Design module group. Funny name? You might think so, but many an hour went into that name, which originally was just Electric Aviary, only to have Wood’s added later on. The objective is to create a marvellous music generating or reacting product. Something different. Something fun. Something interactive.
It will take alot of work to get to the final product. Lots of coding, wiring, soldering, modelling, photographing and really having fun. Mr Tibbles, Miss McClean and Mr Wood are ready to take on this project, and produce the best that we can offer.
Our work blog is on Tumblr and we shall endeavour to update it as much as possible throughout the process, concepts, prototypes and the final product. The group also has a twitter account which will keep you up to date with all the goings on in between posts on the blog.
That was then, and this is now. The project has now finished and proved to be relatively successful for Wood’s Electric Aviary. It gained the highest grade for it out of all the groups. If you didn’t follow the Electric Aviary blog, you would have missed what was made, but I shall cover it in this review.
Quite early on in the project, once the 100 ideas sketchbook was produced, it was decided as a group that the direction we would pursue was to combine a guitar and a bird box, and the idea changed very little from initial sketch to the final product.
An actual guitar was dismantled for parts, many hours were spent on the electronics of the bird box and the final shape was decided as we worked instead of doing sketches for it.
Looking at the electronics of the bird box first, it may seem like a simple operation, but what was involved with the coding and the hardware pushed brains to the limit and caused quite a lot of stress. A proximity sensor was used to detect when a bird entered or left the box, and depending on the distance, a servo strummed the strings. On the floor of the box was 4 buttons, and when the bird hopped about on the inside of their new home and stood on one of the buttons, it would activate solenoids which would strike the strings and give the impression of them being plucked. However, once the final thing was put together, the solenoids which had worked extremely well in various prototypes did not work sufficiently, so were omitted, the wires were cut. The servo on the other hand had not worked so well in early prototypes but it worked beautifully in the final product.
Over the course of the project, the electronics proved nothing but problematic, and at one point, they failed completely and took a number of weeks to get working properly once again. Luckily they worked as planned when they were inserted into the bird box which was a huge relief as they had not been tested for distance from the strings or how they would sound inside the box before hand. Sighs of relief were heard from all around.
Moving on to the box itself, we were left with 2 options for what it would look like. Either a traditional looking bird box, or something much more abstract. The abstract route was chosen as it would have given us a bit greater freedom and we could have made it much more acoustically sound for use with the strings inside so it would be heard.
A curvaceous shape was chosen which led to a problem of how to produce it. Discussions with a technician gave a few options, one of which we chose to adopt. It involved cutting shapes out of plywood and gluing them together, it led to a gorgeous finish which added to the mysteriousness of the product. A handle was incorporated into the design so it could be hung from a tree or transported easily. A hinged front allowing easy access to change the batteries and maintenance. As a joke or novelty move, the inside of the box was covered in wallpaper. It really was a high class home for the bird population.
Once the work was carried out, it was time to make a press release for it and also a video for it. They were easy to do compared to the rest of the project and turned out well. To see the press release please visit the Electric Aviary tumblr blog. The video is shown below:
Overall, the project proved to be massively stressful in many respects, but hugely fun in others. If given the choice to do it again, I’m not really sure what we would change. Yes there are a number of small changes which would have been made easily, but there doesn’t seem to be any big changes. A lot of effort was put into it, and that was shown with the mark it was given, but it does seem like some of the ideas we could have used were stifled by those running the course. There were numerous times where we were well ahead of schedule, making important decisions when we were told to slow down and change what we were doing despite it being arguably right for what we were doing. It wasn’t just our group though, all the groups were affected by this and it led to the deadline being extended by over a month which was out of order. It is times like these where it gives you doubts about whether or not you are doing the right thing. Miscommunication is a horrible thing to work with.
But to end it on a much more cheery note, what do you think of what we produced and if it were actually to be made, even in small numbers, would you buy one?