We wanted to see what would happen if we turned things on their head and, instead of letting dance be dictated by music, let the movement control the music.
We’d never used Micro:bits before, but having some to hand they seemed the right choice for this project.
The Micro:bit has been developed to encourage children to get actively involved in coding and digital creation. They proved simple to use and we fell in love with them straight away. You can find out more about Micro:bits here
We created four wrist/ankle bands, from ever-dependable duct tape, that each held a micro:bit board and a battery pack power supply. We connected the micro:bits to a laptop using bluetooth and used the bbc-microbit Node JS module to handle the communication. Then, whenever these bands were moved, we were able to grab the resulting data from their onboard accelerometer.
For our first prototype we used just one wristband. We wrote some code that altered the playback speed of a music track based on the movement data we received from the wristband. We added a visual element to help debug and improve the experience as some damping was needed for the transitions from very fast movement to stationary positions.
For our second prototype we used four wristbands. And instead of controlling just one music track, we used each band to control a separate music loop.
Our early tests were fun but, not surprisingly, chaotic. We remedied this by averaging the movement of the bands and applying this to global playback speed, but taking individual movement readings and applying this to individual music loop volumes. Again a visual element helped us work out what was going on in more detail.
The second prototype proved to be a hit. It was great to see our staff dancing energetically around the office and it was fascinating to watch how people reacted to the sounds their movements made. It turned out to be a very collaborative tool, with participants watching, copying and reasoning with each other in pursuit of particular sounds. It would be nice to develop this further, perhaps as a learning tool for younger audiences.
Our Discovery Artist in Residence projects have been funded and supported by Pavilion Dance South West