The Challenges

Researches showed us that people with low vision or blindness still play music, since it’s more audio than visual. But most musical instruments are not meant to built for them. They do can play musical instruments but most of the time it takes longer time for them to memorize the notes. Between the space and the notes produce plenty of notes combination which is hard for them just to rely on tactile senses. Mino is designed to make them, especially kids, to begin learning music with more intuitive design.

 

Goal

How might we make a musical instrument that is accessible and can teach kids with low vision or blindness to learn music.

 

Ideas

The basic idea was to use touch in the tactile sense to play music. Since the goal is to make an accessible musical instrument for kids who have low vision or blindness, there are some factors that are important to be considered.

  • Texture: For people without vision, they rely more on tactile sense. In this project, I wanted to make the texture rather soft to get the sense of feeling safe. For children, if the products have solid texture, they might think of harmness.
  • Surface: Playing music for people with low vision or blindness is challenging. It’s not that they can’t because music is more audio than visual, but it takes longer for them to memorize the place of the notes. If the surface isn’t flat, I think it would be helpful for them to memorize it.
  • Elevation: Most of musical instrument differentiate the notes based on its place. The higher the pitches, the further the place for instance. But it’s harder for people with low vision or blindness. I thought adding elevation on the instrument would give clearer and more intuitive interaction for the users.
  • Keep it simple: Never be too complex. It’s the key to design things for kids. If kids can’t figure out how to use things, they will get bored after some time. In this project, my idea is to place the notes only in a X axis. That way it’s easier for them to memorize notes.

 

Design

With this accessible music instrument, the user can produce music by pushing the notes, sort of like a mental model when someone playing a piano. Also, they can make a pitch bend by shaking the notes. There’s also a volume control which user can turn up and down to increase or decrease the volume.

I’m using an exactly piano mental model in this project. Since piano is a very popular instrument, users might know how does piano work. But, since the user target is kids with low vision or blindness, there’s possibility that they don’t know what piano is. That way, I’m making it as simple as possible, with just note buttons which can produce sound when it’s being pressed.

 

Development and Technology

I used Arduino UNO as a microcontroller and MIDI library to control the sound. For the sensors input, I used buttons to produce the notes and tilt switches to make pitches bend.

 

What Did I Learn?

By doing this project, I learned a lot about MIDI. How does it works, what exactly MIDI is, and how to put it into code. There are a lot of elements in MIDI which we can control to produce different kind of interesting music. And beyond that, I learned that making accessible product is not easy at all. There are many things to be considered, from how people with disability would interact with the product, what usually they do if they’re facing similar things, what kind of materials should we choose, etc.

 

More documentation visit Vidia’s Blog: an Accessible Music Instrument