Kids playing with ink are, usually, a disaster waiting to happen. But not when "playing" means "making music" - and not "having fun with walls, clothes and other stuff"- thanks to MusicInk, an italian project based on Arduino and conductive inks. MusicInk was designed by Gilda Negrini and Riccardo Vendramin: they are both members of Produzione Impropria, a group of designers spawned in 2013 from a self-production workshop held at Politecnico di Milano by Stefano Maffei.

MusicInk is an educational toy designed to teach music in an interactive way, letting kids interact not only with musical instruments but with music itself, more precisely with those properties music show as a signal: pitch, intensity, duration, timbre. These properties are actually drawn by kids using some stencils and a conductive ink developed by Bare Conductive (if you were at Maker Faire Rome, you met them and their interactive cards). This ink is used also to draw musical intruments (drums, trumpet, piano, bass, gong) with five provided stencils.

Thanks to ink's conductivity, what kids draw on paper is actually a series of basic electric circuits that are then connected to MusicInk's brain, which is closed in a wooden box: an Arduino Duemilanove board with a Freescale MPR121 proximity capacitive touch sensor controller. This component turns the "keys" and "strings" the kids have just drawn in proximity sensors, so kids' movements can be intepreted by the MPR121 controller and converted in signals, which are sent via Bluetooth to a companion mobile app on an Android or iOS device. Here kids' actions are ultimately converted in music, using a collection of audio samples offered in Creative Commons by London Philarmonia Orchestra.

MusicInk is still a prototype, but it works much better than any explanation could express. Seeing is believing, so enjoy the video.


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