Co-op Disco

UX | Sound Exhibit

Imagine you are listening to your favorite song. It's blaring through your headphones and you are really enjoying your time. Your foot starts tapping and your head nods to the rhythm. The song that is playing for me is 'My Michelle' by Guns n Roses. It has a lot of electric guitar in it.


Imagine we bump into each other. Our music players recognize one another and our songs mix together. The instruments in your favorite song get mixed with my electric guitars and we start listening to the same song.


A new song that is just for us.


I think it would be a pretty neat way to make music together. Music is fun when it's communal.


I prototyped a music player that is designed as a cooperative experience, which I turned into an exhibit. There are four characters, each one playing a different instrument. You can listen to each one. If you put one character close to another then they recognize each other and start to play a new mash-up, together.


I built 4 mp3 players, each one a different character that plays a different genre. If you put them together then the two characters snap together, recognize each other, and mix. Ms. Piano becomes a little more jazzy when next to Mr. Funky Drums, while he becomes a little more regimented. But Ms. Piano next to Chip-Tunes go into a nostalgic call-and-response theme.


This was done through some rudimentary soldering, some musical arranging, a bit of Arduino coding, and with the magical power of magnets.

The real design behind this is about turning music into a cooperative experience. I can talk your head off about how to apply game theories to products, and this was my take on applying some of these rules.


Usually music is a very singular experience: playing an instrument, putting some headphones in, etc. Even massive musical events like concerts, although they are for a lot of people they aren't designed as a co-op experience. My little exhibit was different.


Not to get in the weeds, but just to track the "Type of Fun" through the design:


In technical terms, everything about the design (including the table that has the message "DRAW ON ME") is made to signal: Sensation and Discovery. There are plenty of rules you must follow, but you slowly discover them one at a time. It ends with you standing close to the table, wearing headphones, listening to music you don't know.


As you look over the little player, it tells you to put it together with someone else. It's first signal for: Fellowship. You realize that you can put your device together, and with a partner discover a song that is totally different, yet familiar.


This then wraps Discovery and Fellowship together when you start thinking, "What if?". What if you put your device next to the device that stranger over there is holding?


Joy is what happens.


+ This was done in 1 week from concept to finished exhibit for Stanford's Reframe: First Launch event

+ Role: solo project