Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, 2004-06

I Can Feel the Music


I Can Feel the Music I & II on a Tecno table during the 2005 Milan Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile). See more pictures from the exhibition or read the press release.

With James Tichenor

I Can Feel the Music I & II allow you to to experience the radio spectrum in a new way. With these radios, you can touch stations as well as listen to them. This dynamic haptic feedback lets you find stations with just your finger.

I Can Feel the Music I & II were exhibited in January 2005 at AB+ in Turin (press release, photos). They were reviewed on We Make Money Not Art. I Can Feel the Music I was presented at the World Haptics Conference in March 2005. There is a short paper describing our demonstration. Both radios were presented as part of Tecno's exhibition during the 2005 Milan Furniture Fair (Salone del Mobile): press release, photos.

The radios use complex electronics to provide a simple, subtle interface. I Can Feel the Music I provides a single knob for tuning, while I Can Feel the Music II is slid across a surface to select a station. Because both radios focus on exploration of the radio spectrum, the volume knobs are tucked away in back.

When you begin to tune the radio (by turning the knob on Feel the Music I or sliding Feel the Music II across the table), the sound turns off. This allows tuning by touch alone, and avoids the static in-between stations. When you approach a station, a motor inside the radio turns on and resists your movement to prevent you from flying past the station. As you get even closer, the motor reverses direction and pulls you into the station, snapping you into the perfect location for listening. To continue, you simply push on and look for the next station. When you stop tuning, the sound returns.

Turning the knob or sliding the radio corresponds to moving along the radio spectrum. An optical encoder attached to the motor tracks the current location. Each spot on the spectrum has a specific force (pushing forward or backwards) assigned to it. These forces can be thought of as the slopes of phantom peaks or valleys.

This sketch visualizes what happens inside the radio. As you turn the knob, you move back and forth across virtual hills and valleys represented on the left. As you move up a hill, the radio pushes against you, while sliding down a valley causes the radio to push your finger along. (Sketch by James Tichenor)

The software on the left was used to tune the feeling of I Can Feel the Music I. The graph represents the virtual landscape around each station.


The tuning knob is attached to a DC motor with encoder that provides the force feedback.