The Collective DJ
Created by Andrew Cerrito, Mary Fe,
Colin Narver, and Azure Qian
The Collective DJ is a project that allows people to create music through touch and collaboration.
Four different sets of two handpads each are mounted on a wall, spaced apart from each other. When two users each put one hand on a handpad and use their other hand to touch one another, they can trigger an audio sample to turn on or off. Since there are four sets of handpads, up to four samples can be triggered at once, allowing multiple groups of people to DJ a track together.
How it works:
When two people connected to the pads touch each other, a small amount of electricity rushes through them and they complete a circuit. The circuit completion is detected by a microcontroller, which uses keyboard emulation to send one of four keystrokes to a computer running Ableton Live. In Ableton, the four keys are assigned to different samples of an audio track, and those samples are turned on or off via keypress.
Iteration history and design considerations:
This project was actually the second version of The Collective DJ. The first version was a project created in ITP’s Applications class as a reaction to a talk given by Nathan Shedroff on sci-fi interfaces. The talk got us thinking about what kind of novel interfaces we could design, and since our presentation was in the middle of midterm projects period, we wanted to give our class a fun and positive experience. This version was designed for a large auditorium, and it involved 8 rows of floorpads that triggered 8 different sounds and effects. It was used by the entire 2014 class of ITP, which is approximately 110 people. (A video is posted below.)
For the Winter Show version, we had a much smaller space to work with – a narrow hallway in the back section of the ITP floor. We decided not to use floorpads, as people would have to take off their shoes – an action that would both dissuade some people from participating and create a traffic jam in the busy hallway. Wall-mounted hand-pads were much more appropriate for the audience and the space.
The first iteration had 8 sets of floorpads and 8 samples, but we scaled down to 4 in order to make the installation easier to comprehend at a glance and to make sure each sample could be distinctly heard amidst the crowded, noisy atmosphere of the show.
Our wall space had both a long unsightly whiteboard that couldn’t be removed and a kiosk window. In order to disguise these, we papered over the whiteboard with heavy black paper and nailed a large piece of dense white matte board over the kiosk. For visual contrast, we mounted the white hand-pads on the black backing and vice versa. The pads also had a lasercut hand design in order to provide visual context to the users. We mounted the wires to the wall using nails and tape so that they were organized and not visually distracting (a big problem with our first iteration), and we directed them to our computer station to the side of the installation.
Video of the first iteration: