This is a pretty cool invention and use.
MusicInk is a prototype kit that transforms plain paper into functioning, noise-making instruments. Image: MusicInk
First, kids use stencils to paint various instruments with Bare Conductive paint. Image: MusicInk
Then they connect electrodes to the instruments, which lead back to an Arduino. Image: MusicInk
The Arduino connects with a smartphone app via Bluetooth, which essentially turns the paper instruments into capacitive sensors that react to gestures. Image: MusicInk
Kids can strum, tap and generally touch the instruments to emit a musical sound, all of which were recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Image: MusicInk
The idea is to make a low-cost, customizable kit that will challenge children to think about music in a new way. Image: MusicInk
The brains of the Arduino is housed in a pretty wood box. Image: MusicInk
When we think of innovative ways to teach children we often defer to screens. You hear schools boasting, “Every student gets an iPad!” or extolling the virtues of a new computer coding program they’ve implemented. And all that is great—it really is. Unfortunately, as we increase our focus on technology, it usually means we decrease the time children spend actually making with old fashioned tools like paper, paint and scissors. But not always. A new project from Italian startup MusicInk is combining technology and tactile art making to create a new way to teach children the basics of music.
A simple action provokes a surreal outcome.
MusicInk, created by product designers Gilda Negrini and Riccardo Vendramin and software engineer Luong Bui, is a prototype kit that turns paper into functioning, noise-making instruments through conductive paint and an Arduino. The kit comes with a set of stencils that children use to paint various instruments onto a piece of paper using the carbon paint from Bare Conductive, the same paint that was used in Calvin Harris’ human instrument video for “Humanthesizer.” There’s a guitar with strings, a trumpet, drum, and piano key. After adding a couple of coats, each painting is connected to an Arduino Duemilanove board with a Sparkfun MPR121via electrodes and cables.
The brains of the Arduino is synced up with a smartphone app via Bluetooth, essentially turning the paper instruments into capacitive sensors that react to gestures. So every time a child taps a drum, pushes down on a trumpet’s valve or strums a guitar, a musical sound, all recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, is emitted. The controller box holds up to 12 electrodes, so a group of children can be playing instruments simultaneously, like a paper-made orchestra. “Children’s reactions are extraordinary,” say the designers. “It’s beautiful to see their amazed face when they realize they can play a simple piece of paper.
It is a little bit magical to watch as a piece of paper transforms into an interactive instrument. And upon first seeing the instruments in action, it feels almost as though you’re in a cartoon where a simple action provokes a surreal outcome. The gestures are simple enough for children to understand, and the designers plan on making the kit even more intuitive, customizable and possibly wireless, before they make it available to purchase. Their hope, they say, is to create a low-cost, customizable product that will challenge children to think about music in a new way. “We think that giving a different and more tangible way to learn something theoretical, like the basics of music, might be very interesting both for children and teachers,” they say. “We, as designers, think that learning is easier when made with something practical.”