Tangible Interaction with Music (2003)

Miguel Bruns

Supervisory Team
David Keyson
Amina Ait El Houssi
Jouke Verlinden

Smart Surroundings

Playing music on a computer lacked the tangible interaction of handling CDs or LPs, but burning music on a CD took away some of the advantages of the digital format. Miguel Bruns’s MusicCube combined the best of both worlds.

Users could create their own playlists and assign them a colour. Four coloured sidelights on the cube indicated the various playlists, that were selected by placing the desired colour upwards. You could adjust the volume and navigate songs with a rotary dial on the top. Its multi-modal feedback options included a female voice reflecting back your choices: “volume now at maximum level”.

Presaging the iPod’s shake to shuffle function, users could shake the cube to activate it, as well as to shuffle songs. Putting the cube upside down would switch it off. Test users enjoyed handling the cube, and a YouTube video got 24,000 hits in a month – large numbers for those days.

About the design process:

Many products now use an accelerometer for interaction. The specific shake to shuffle debuted with the iPod nano, the function has survived many generations of iPod and iPhone. Shaking your iPhone or iPad is currently the only way to undo certain actions.