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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Music from Train Tickets - Sound of the Underground

Ever wondered whether the act of putting train tickets into gates could be turned into a musical experience? Millions of tickets go through London Underground & railway barriers each day. Inspired by watching BBC2's
The Tube documentary & how Thoughts of the Day on Tube white boards brighten up our daily commute, Product Design students from the University of Dundee wondered if they could get us to think about what might happen if our collective tickets could play music. What they came up with was the protoype of an Underground music box.

Using a microcontroller programming system called Picaxe, Abi Brown, Eilidh Price and Jonathan Lawrence produced ‘Sound of the Underground’ an innovative reuse for train tickets, challenging the way we think about everyday objects. They said "People spend so much of their everyday lives rushing about, beetling their way too and from their destination without stopping to notice people or objects around them. 

We use exciting products everyday yet with extensive use these items become mundane and boring, blending in to the dull background. Our aim is to make the mundane exciting, making people stop and interact with their environment and in turn making their everyday experiences that little bit more exciting. This will challenge the preconceptions of those who use the products and we aim to take people by surprise, make it enjoyable and overall provoke discussion."

Working around the idea that train tickets are never reused and are often binned straight after they are purchased, they came up with the concept  of running a line of tickets through a sensor that detects changes in the tickets.

They said "We were thinking about detecting the magnetic strip or the text but Mike, our lecturer, suggested sensing the hole punched in the tickets by the conductor. We also want it to connect to people going through the ticket barriers, producing more or louder music when more poeple are passing through. We also want the sound to be relaxing as train stations are busy, stressful places."

Looking at other playful uses of ordinary objects they built barriers themselves which would connect the tickets with the Picaxe system: "An LDR (Light Dependent Resistor) is fitted in each of the three barriers, this is then triggered as someone places their ticket in the slot. This will then be programmed to make the display move and make sound. The idea is that as the user puts the ticket in the slot, it will trigger the LDR, turning the motors and playing music  through the boxes."

Here's a video of their prototype machine in action

I think it's rather lovely.  Visit their blog Sound of the Underground to find out more about their project including videos of all the concepts that inspired them and more illustrations of how they made the prototype

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