C60 – Evolution of an Idea

Using hardware/software to bring a tactile listening experience to digital music

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The C60 Concept

In April of 2009 my colleagues Martin Bone and Kara Johnson published a collection of 12 design experiments in the book “I Miss My Pencil”.

Experiment #11, C60, examines the experience of listening to music.  In addition to listening, we used to see and touch our music. Now we download, point and click.

Gone are the hours spent in the record store on a Saturday, leafing through the racks in search of that hidden gem. Replaced with sitting in front of your computer in your underpants… trolling through the iTunes store…

-Martin Bone, “I Miss My Pencil

The C60 concept was created to bring tangibility to the digital music experience.  A card represents a song or a collection of songs. Placement of a card on the C60 table causes the music represented by the card to be played. Multiple cards placed on the table form a clockwise ordered playlist.

An earlier “quick and dirty” prototype and process details after the jump:

C60 Prototype Development

In the spring of 2009, IDEO Boston designers began to gather into “craft” groups one lunch hour every week.  Craft groups were created to encourage and inspire independent projects and design conversations;  to deepen design craft. My craft group is focused on interaction and digital design. Interaction designer Dan DeRuntz, familiar with “I Miss My Pencil” suggested that we experiment with the C60 concept.

During concept development, it’s easy to spend too much time working on details that “don’t matter now”.  It is preferable to test many ideas, to perform experiments that answer pressing questions and uncover new ones.  In this phase, the best path to understanding is to try many ideas quickly.

Various approaches to C60 were considered, two were prototyped.

A turntable based approach, conceived and built by designer Konrad Ropke, utilized a cardboard box, a motor, an RFID module, Arduino based components and Adobe Flash, taking less than a week to build. This approach is demonstrated in the following video.

I prototyped a second approach, using 9 RFID antennas in a 3×3 matrix, also built in under a week, using a cardboard box, RFID modules, Arduino processors and the Processing software development tool. The prototype continued to be used for further experimentation and learning. For more photos and details of prototype development leading to the present C60 experience prototype hop on over to imissmypencil.com.

While both approaches showed promise, the craft group decided to move forward with the original C60 concept found in the book. The use of quick prototyping methods created confidence that we could make it work.