Tag Archives: DMY Berlin

Soft electronics

German designer Katja Riley found a way to translate music into a tactile experience. Her project “Touched by Music” is an example of tomorrow’s wearable technology that does not bring the feeling of wearing tech. According to her vision, next generation of electronics will become soft, visibly disappear, and will relate to different human senses.

– Usually, hearing sense overpowers our touch sense. ”Touched by Music” project gives people a new experience of music, which is a tactile way of hearing – said Katja Riley, the author of the research that is much more than an ambitious bachelor project. ”Touched by Music” is a fascinating story about human senses, technology, wearable devices, music, dance, design, fashion and e-textiles all at once.

New textile-based products will move the technology to the fiber level.

”Touched by Music” is a top made of electronic textiles that makes music feelable on the human body. There are twelve small vibrating motors integrated with the garment. An MP3 file is sent via Bluetooth to a microcontroller integrated with the device. When the controller receives and analyzes the data, it activates motors adequately.

Touched by Music e-textiles

There are low frequencies vibrating motors on left and right sides of the stomach. Medium frequencies motors (the drum) are placed on the upper chest. On the back on the neck, there are high-frequency motors.

In contrast to today’s most products that bury technology inside a hard shell which consist of many materials, the next-generation products and their interface may be made of the same soft material.

The microcontroller and vibration motors are connected to each other and powered trough a conductive thread integrated into the fabric. A removable battery is located just next to the microcontroller on the lower back.

Touched by Music architecture

Katja Riley emphasizes that motors do not simply vibrate in a rhythm of a music. Vibrations rates are dynamic, which means they portray a mood of each song. If the wearer is happy or sad and chooses a matching song, an adequate emotion will be felt on his or her body.

Quotations used in this article have been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original interview with Katja Riley watch the video embedded below. To learn more about conductive threads, pay particular attention to the part between 6th and 7th minute of the video.


Katja’s wearable device enables anyone who can’t hear or has limited hearing to experience music, but the designer does not address her project only to deaf or hearing impaired people (though, she is very happy that they can benefit from her project).

– Music is not just something we enjoy. It makes us feel better. It can heal. With this device, you can either choose just to feel the music, or you can listen to it and feel at the same time – Katja explains.

Touched by Music What is music

– All of us, those who can hear and those who can not, feel the music on our bodies, as music is nothing else than sound waves that hit us. The tactile experience is what makes us to really like a song. That’s why we turn on music very loud when we really want to feel it. When we are at the concert our experience is different from listening to music at home. The emotional side of music, which is the feeling of it, can be portrayed anywhere with my wearable – the designer continues.

Katja is the most excited about the materials she discovered during her research. She is fascinated by electronic textiles and how they could make electronics soft: – With e-textiles, we can give a new feel to electronic products and make them more human.

Touched by Music wearable credits TrendNomad
Photography by TrendNomad.com

The first “Touched by Music” prototype is at the testing stage. It is not ready for a consumer market, and it is just a suggestion of how the final product may look like. The prototype was sewn, but Katja wishes to manufacture its final version on a seamless knitting machine.

– The technology chosen to produce this product is not something I can make a model just like that. There are very specific and huge industrial knitting machines necessary. It’s expensive at the beginning, as there is a lot of know-how and specialists needed to set-up such a machine, but when you go into production, then it is not expensive anymore. It is quite sustainable and much quicker method than cutting and sewing fabrics. Seamless knitting is kind of 3D printing for clothes. It comes out of a machine in one piece, cutting or sewing are unnecessary – Katja adds.

In the next 5-10 years we will see e-textile-based products that enable completely new ways of how we deal with electronics.

On the other hand, reusing and recycling e-textiles, including separating conductive threads from regular textiles, are near-future-problems the industry will encounter and should think of solving them in advance. Katja Riley suggests that the solution may be found by working with e-textiles manufacturers from the very beginning. Moreover, smart textile products must have specific new labelling standard to ensure correct disposal.

The designer believes that people will treat e-clothing differently than a regular garment which sometimes has a lifetime of a week. In her opinion, with additional functions and increased value people will use electronic clothing much longer than they do today with cheap fast fashion.

Touched by Music Katja Riley at DMY Berlin 2016 credits TrendNomad
Photography by TrendNomad.com

I met and interviewed Katja Riley at the exhibition organised by University of Applied Sciences in Berlin at DMY 2016 design festival, which ran June 2-5 in the capital of Germany. If you would like to ask some questions regarding ”Touched by music” project, please contact the designer directly at katja.riley@mac.com.

Photos 1, 2, 3 and 4 depict slides included in the presentation shown by Katja Riley at DMY Berlin 2016.


Do you like this article or the video interview? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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The post-screen era

Despite the development of different sensors, most of the interfaces are still graphic-based, favoring sight above all other senses. To switch on or off a smart bulb, change a song in a music streaming app or text a friend, a smartphone requires from its user a full visual attention. Is there a chance for a change in user interface design in the next decade?

About the (not very distant) future of user interface design, I talked to Tobias Eichenwald, CEO and co-founder of Senic, a hardware and software start-up based in Berlin. He and his team are focused on exploring and designing new ways for a human to interact with technology, with a goal of making the user experience seamless and natural, beyond limited screen-based user interface. We met at the venue of DMY 2015 festival.

Senic Nuimo credits Trend Nomad
(from the left) Tobias Eichenwald and Felix Christmann, two-third of Senic founders. Photography: Trend Nomad

At what stage of evolution of user interface design are we right now?
Tobias Eichenwald: When we look at the past of UI, we can see two major shifts. The first was the emergence of personal computers in the 1980s. The second refers to smartphones in the 2000s. After digitizing our work tools, communication and entertainment, we are right now in the middle of a process of transferring physical objects such as light and speaker switches onto mobile apps. In the result, people spend more and more time staring at smartphones screens. But let’s be honest: nobody enjoys browsing through mobile apps to turn on a light. A smartphone interface required several steps for this kind of operation. It includes finding and pulling out a smartphone, unlocking it, searching for the right app and opening it to select the right setting. This process is time-consuming. It is a step in the wrong direction, comparing to a user flow of a traditional light switch. Please note that in real life, a home is a place for everyone, not just for 20 or 30 years old digital natives.

Try to hit a button on your smartphone with your eyes closed – it will not work. Design in a post-screen era will focus on an interaction very similar to that with low-tech objects.

How do we have to wait for the third shift in user interface design?
The next shift from a centralized graphical user interface that deals only with a vision to ubiquitous and specialized user interfaces is just around the corner. Within the next 15 years, we will not use just one centralized device such as a smartphone. Instead, we will use a combination of many interfaces, for example, a speech recognition, gesture recognition, wearables and haptics. One technology will replace the other. We will use different interfaces in different situations. For example, of I want to get information about a product when I am alone in a room, I can use voice recognition. But if I am talking to someone at a table, and I want to adjust the music volume, I would prefer to use haptic technology that I can reach blindly and discretely without interrupting our talk.


Something like Nuimo, the first product from Senic?
Exactly. Nuimo is a freely programmable controller for a computer and mobile devices. It connects directly to anything that speaks Bluetooth Low Energy.

Nuimo is the first product in an entire line of interfaces, smart surfaces and objects from Senic, which will include collaborations with major companies in the automotive and furniture industries.

How a user can interact with the device?
Four main inputs include an analog ring that runs around the circumference of Nuimo, capacitive touch and click on the face of the device, as well as two gesture sensors that allow a sweep motion over the device or upwards from the face of the device. It also includes a LED matrix that shows simple graphics through the surface. It can be used as a visual output and signifier for switching applications.


Which apps are supported?
Nuimo works with Sonos Speakers and Philips Hue Lights, apps such as Soundcloud, Spotify, and many more.


How many?
Currently, Nuimo has more that 30 applications and integrations available – a number that is growing thanks to a committed developer community. Nuimo is freely programmable, and building applications for the controller is simple. New apps can be updated through a smartphone or a computer. It is also possible to reconfigure the controls of the Nuimo to suit interests of its user.


Can I use Nuimo with more than one app at the same time?
Different applications can be loaded into the controller and switched between with a simple swipe motion. This makes it easy to switch between playing music and controlling the lighting at home or visualizing a timer application for cooking.

ITS DONE!! Thanks to all of our backers, supporters and friends! We can't wait to deliver you #nuimo!

A photo posted by SENIC (@heysenic) on

How did you manage to change an idea into a real product?
Firstly, we completed a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. At that time, we focused on integrations for computer applications. The campaign reached its funding goal in three days and went on to be funded over 500 percent reaching $280K in total. The second campaign conducted on Kickstarter was focused on integration Nuimo with smart home objects. The controller reached 100 percent of its funding goal in just 32 hours. The goal was €55K, but at the end we reached as much as €210K.

Senic Nuimo map
Nuimo was designed and is being manufactured in 100 percent in Germany.

It sounds like a huge success.
It is just the beginning. Nuimo is the first product in an entire line of interfaces, smart surfaces and objects from Senic, which will include collaborations with major companies in the automotive and furniture industries.


Ten characteristics of a new generation of user interfaces (based on the article „The Future of Human Computer Interaction” published on the official Senic blog):
1. Decentralized. UI will shift away from the centralized devices such as smartphones. The light switch shifted onto the smartphone and will shift away again into smart light switches, speech or completely new forms like eye tracking. You won’t need to carry your interface around anymore. Interfaces will be where you need them to be.
2. Specific. Interfaces will shift away from a generic screen towards more specific interfaces that only do a small number of things and that are specifically designed for that use case.
3. Human-centered. Graphical user interfaces only use the visual sense and a reduced version of haptics. Future interfaces will integrate more human senses. Interfaces will use our brain waves or body movements.
4. Instant. Dealing with menus will be obsolete. Things will be instant again. The question is not whether actions take 1, 3 or 5 steps. The question will be if an action can be done instantly or not.
5. Simple. Future interfaces will ignore the assumed integration with graphical user interfaces and will focus on making things easier than existing solutions.
6. Invisible. Technology will not be in the foreground anymore. It will blend into the background. It will disappear into walls, tables, micro projectors or glass.
7. Augmented and virtual. The digital and physical will blend. You will be able to read context information about a broken motor not through a phone but directly in the surrounding space of the object.
8. Passive. You won’t need to trigger every action manually anymore, sensors will do that job for you. Examples include a garage door that can track when you’re getting close to your house or lights that turn on automatically when you’re walking into a room.
9. Tangible. A race driver would never replace his physical wheel for a tablet. A musician would never replace his guitar. Haptic and tangible interfaces have value. They allow you to use your motoric memory and a multitude of senses and to interact with technology in the most natural way.
10. Magical. We will be able to talk to rooms and machines in natural language. We will be able to make gestures in the air to trigger actions. We will only have to think of things to happen and they will.


The final prototypes of Nuimo, right before the start of mass manufacturing, will be shown at IFA fairs in Berlin from 4th to 9th of September. If you have any questions concerning Nuimo and you will be in Berlin at this time, you are more than welcome to visit the Senic’s booth at the fairs (Messe Berlin, hall 11.1, booth 11 b). Naturally, you can always reach the Senic team at hi@senic.com.


Do you like the interview? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Music in your head

It’s official: music created by a brainwave monitoring device goes mainstream. As a part of the marketing campaign for the new sci-fi series „Sense8”, Netflix has recently released „Brainwave Symphony”, an electronic musical piece recorded with using a headband that monitors alpha, beta, delta, gamma and theta brainwaves of eight volunteers.

The song promoting the new Wachowskis’ series available in the popular streaming service is neither the first nor the last example of using brainwaves sensors to compose music. Similar experiments were carried out for several decades. But this time the song is no longer a niche artistic project targeted to a small audience. Due to the fact that it is part of a marketing campaign run by the Internet giant and it concerns a series with a growing amount of fans, „Brainwave Symphony”, which is available on Spotify and on the video embedded below, it has a chance to hit a much wider audience.


Just a few weeks before this piece of music was released, I visited DMY 2015 festival (it was held from 11 to 14 June in Berlin) where I met Bob van Luijt and Renate Roze. They were showing the project titled „control(human, data, sound)” that comprises brainwaves while creating music. Bob applied in his work the Muse Brain Sensing Headband that is being sold and advertised on the commercial market as a device facilitating daily meditation. In January this year I had an opportunity to test this device at CES fairs (despite my initial skepticism about its effectiveness, Muse really helped me to relax for a while), but at beginning of this year I did not know that the headband can be also reprogrammed into a kind of musical instrument. Such an idea came to Bob’s mind. And he is not alone – Muse was also used somewhat later by studio Tool  in a production process of „Brainwave Symphony” for Netflix. And I have a hunch that this is not the last word. As Bob van Luijt said, in few years from now brainwaves sensors could be built into virtual reality headsets.

Kubrickology Bob van Luijt Renate Roze DMY credits Trend Nomad
Bob van Luijt (on the right): creator, composer, founder of Kubrickology – a strategic design company that focuses on technology, music, art, games and urban design. Renate Roze: a co-producer of the film about „control(human, data, sound)” project; a freelancer, an interviewer and editor for international film festivals. Photography: Trend Nomad

Trend Nomad: You are a musician by background, but instead of writing notes, you create music compositions by coding.
Bob van Luijt: Few years ago, when I was visiting a technology conference in San Francisco devoted to augmented reality issues, I saw Muse – a wearable device that measures brain activity. I started thinking what kind of project could I do with data collected from a human brain. I decided to use it for an artistic purpose. I created a music composition based on variables that I got from a brain sensing headband. The composition itself has its form, structure and fixed instruments, but many elements such as keys, tempo, duration, note length and panning are determined by variables prescribed by data coming live from Muse device that the dancer wears on his or her head while dancing.


Your project is much more about data than about music.
I definitely agree, but please note that data stored in a computer means nothing. Only a human being can contextualize data, and only a context gives data its value. Nowadays more and more algorithms analyze and try to give a context to data. Sometimes that context makes sense, but usually it doesn’t make sense at all. The bigger the pile of data gets, the more meaningless it becomes. I wonder what will happen if one-day data would be harvested directly from our brain. My project called „control(human, data, sound)” is an abstraction of that idea.

How do you translate brainwaves into music?
I used Muse Brain Sensing Headband’s developer kit and I made a function that browse through data, downloads some data, and turns it into a number – so called Integer – that affects the composition. I created the composition using Node.js development environment with integrated MIDI library, as well as Logic Pro X recording studio software. I chose 14 instruments from three libraries, which were strings and string section effects from ProjectSAM’s „Symphobia 2” series, Eduardo Tarilonte’s „Epic World”, and Best Service’s „Synth Werk”.

When the software was ready, you put Muse headband on a dancer’s head and ask him to start dancing. Does his movement make any impact on the music?
Sometimes yes, but and sometimes no. The software itself determines where to place information and make music out of it. It always sounds different when someone else wears it, or when you record it twice with the same person. A dancer is not able to change the music deliberately.
Renate Roze: Please note that music is also made when a dancer stands or sits still. His brain is always active, he does not have to move to make music. A melody will not become more dynamic when a dancer starts dancing faster, that is not the case. It depends on the state of his mind.
B.v.L.: If I show to the dancer a picture that would calm or scare him, the sensor will notice the change on his brain activity and the music will reflect it.
R.R.: But the change would be very subtle. As Bob has already mentioned, synthesisers are preselected. If you repeat the same experiment again, and the same dancer would think of something completely different while dancing, or would make other movements, then an outcome would be modified in a subtle way. We would hear the same kind of sound, but maybe a little bit faster, softer or louder, but it would not be a completely different piece of music.
B.v.L.: But it is never exactly the same. The wearable device sends six data points every millisecond or every two milliseconds. That means every second I get about 4500 data points. That’s a lot of data to be translated into music.

Kubrickology data
Columns of the player in the console made by Bob van Luijt.

Have you ever considered that some people could be afraid of putting such a device on their head?
B.v.L.: If someone is wondering if his or her thoughts could be „hacked” by a wearable device, I can say that the answer is: „No”. It is impossible to check what you think of when you sit, stand, walk or dance with Muse on your forehead. All I can see is that your brain activity changes when you are stressed or relaxed.

Besides music and wearable devices, you are interested in virtual reality issues. Do you think that one-day devices such as Oculus Rift will be equipped with brainwaves sensors?
B.v.L.: I think that in the next 15 years this kind or rather more advanced sensors will become common parts of VR devices. I am sure that people will wear more and more sensors around their bodies, including a head. Facebook, among others, will be delighted.

Do you believe that in 2020 VR devices will be as popular as smartphones are today?
B.v.L.: I think it will be more like a 3D television right now – not everyone has 3D TV set at home. You need a lot of stuff to watch VR content. People can also – literally – get sick of it [but don’t worry, there is a VR motion sickness relief capsule – ed.]. In my opinion, virtual reality is being commercialized to soon. Few years ago, when I went to a virtual reality conference for the very first time, I heard a lot of different talks about VR. Now it’s completely taken over by commercial issues. Devices that are launched to the market as end products, in fact, are just prototypes. But maybe I’m wrong. Some people said in the past that the internet will never go mainstream.

If you are interested in more technical details of the „control(human, data, sound)” project, please watch the movie below and read Bob’s article: „A story about how I created music out of data”.


If you have any questions regarding „control(human, data, sound)” project, please contact Bob van Luijt at bob@kubrickolo.gy.


P.S. If you need more information about the Muse headband, you can watch the movie embedded below and visit the Choosemuse.com website. In case you would like to use this device for composing music with your brainwaves, please download adequate code from the Bob van Luijt’s library available on Github.


Do you like the interview? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Privacy is so last season

In the next few years, we will pay much higher price for clothes integrated with wearable electronics than just a certain amount of money. The hidden cost will include the decline of our privacy, as apparel companies will join IT corporations that persistently collect and analyze data about our location, pulse and body temperature.

On January 30th, 2015 Facebook rolled out its new Data Use Policy and Terms of Service. At the request of the Belgian Privacy Commission, Facebook’s revised policies and terms were extensively analyzed by researchers from KU Leuven and Vrije universities and elaborated on the comprehensive report. According to the publication, „Facebook collects location data in order to allow users to share their location with peers. However, this data may also be re-used to target advertising. (…) There are no further (in-app) settings, for example, allowing the individual to authorize location sharing for one purpose but decline it for other purposes. (…) The only way to stop the Facebook mobile app from accessing location data on one’s smartphone is to do so at the level of the mobile operating system”.  All or nothing, but frankly speaking, it is not a surprising discovery.

However, as we can read further in the report, „even when a user decides to turn off Facebook’s access to location data, this still does not prevent Facebook from collecting location data via other means. Pictures taken with smartphones, for example, often contain location information as metadata. As a result, location data may be shared indirectly when uploading pictures to Facebook. Combined with features such as facial recognition, it is fairly easy to pinpoint the location of specific individuals to specific locations in time”. Furthermore, comparing Facebook’s Data Use Policy from 2013 and 2015, in the new version of DUP „there is no longer any mention of limiting the storage or use of location data to the time necessary to provide a service”.

Since location data is collected even without our explicit consent and stored without any limits, maybe we should try to look for some benefits for ourselves from this situation? Maybe location data may bring some value not only to social networks and advertisers? Such opinion is given by three design students who due to their young age and place of residence are not familiar with the world without the Internet.


A group of Media Interaction Design students from Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences – Heike Gabel, Robert Schnüll and Niklas Thyen – noticed that when someone receives a text message via Facebook Messenger, usually do not bother (unlike Facebook itself and advertisers) which place the message was sent from. And even if a recipient checks the location of the sender on Messenger app – it is possible by swiping left the text – soon he or she forgets about this allegedly worthless data.

Remeber The Warm Times

The project called Remember the Warm Times changes the situation described above and make valuable for the recipient to save location data of the sender. The project is far more advanced and sophisticated than simple adding pins on a map. In this case, a digital communication becomes a physical interaction.

Remeber The Warm Times scarf

Designers made the assumption that the most positive feedback a person could get is a warm feeling based on a primal instinct. Guided by this idea, they designed and developed a scarf that generates a warm feedback (literally – it heats up) when is located at certain places. Which places can be called hotspots? Firstly, whenever someone sends you something nice via Facebook Messenger, the app saves data about his or her location. You will feel a heat on your neck each time you cross this place. Secondly, you can choose in advance „warm zones” for people you care about. For example, by choosing the airport, you set a nice and subtle way to say „goodbye” or „welcome home” to someone you love before his or her departure or just after arrival. Naturally, this person must wear the Remember the Warm Times scarf to feel the warm message.

Remeber The Warm Times app

Besides the scarf, there is also the mobile app. In fact, it works as a brain of the system. It collects, analyze and displays data, filters the incoming content, compare it with the current GPS position, and at the right location it wirelessly activates the heater sewn into the middle of the scarf.

Remeber The Warm Times credits Trend Nomad
The scarf and application Remember the Warm Times were exhibited at DMY 2015 festival in Berlin. Photography: Trend Nomad

Remember the Warm Times is a prototype made as a winter semester 2014/2015 project at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. I found it and talk to one of its designer Robert Schnüll at the venue of the DMY International Design Festival that took place in Berlin from 11th to 14th of June 2015. If you have any questions concerning this project, you can contact the group by sending them an email at info@rememberthewarmtimes.com.


Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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