I set out to create a matrix of dance floor tiles which act as a controller for a drum rack sampler & step sequencer. The software implements some of the key ideas from an Akai MPC and modern digital audio workstations like Ableton. Users are invited to step up to the device, express themselves with a little dance over a 2-bar phrase, and hear back the resulting rhythm produced by the "Dance floor MPC". Successive users can choose to "collaborate" with the previous user's recorded sequence. This is not a precise production tool, but rather a playful experience which enables anyone to enjoy making beats with their body.
There are 8 interactive tiles and one neutral central tile in this interface. Each interactive tile triggers a different drum sample. I encouraged users to start in the neutral tile and used DDR as a starting point to frame the interaction. The console at the front contains four buttons to control the sequencer software and an LED strip interface which reflects the state of the loop transport. The buttons (from left to right are) play/stop, toggle record mode, reset sequence, and change sample bank:
In addition, the web UI has a few more controls which are not reflected in the hardware. I sometimes used these while demoing the project at the winter show:
December 9, 2018
I have a working hardware prototype constructed mostly of cardboard. In the next week I will rebuild this with sturdier materials (foam pads, U-channel aluminum framing) and add more visible lighting with LED strips.
You can view the current state of the software (and play with it yourself!) here. It can only play Roland TR-808 samples right now, but I have already started building support for additional sample banks (feel free to check out my commit history).
In this video you see me controlling some parts of the experience by clicking buttons in the web UI; the final device will have hardware affordances for common controls (start/stop, advance to next user, change sample bank, etc). The sequencer timeline UI will also become hardware using LED strips (see the sketch at the top of the page) which are placed in front of the pad matrix.
At this point I think the biggest risk factor for this project is the timely fabrication of sturdy tiles. I plan to dedicate nearly all of Thurs-Sun to this build, and I think the above deadlines will help as a forcing function to get the project in a good state.
These should give you an idea of my rapid progress over the past few days and how I'm thinking about fabrication: