Tangible Interface | Group of 4 | Contribution: Contextual Inquiry, Interaction Flow, Hardware Prototyping | Conference Publication


Tangible Music Player for Visually Challenged

MuBiks is a novel tangible music player, designed for visually challenged to create and manipulate music playlists. Users can manipulate musical controls to play, pause and increase-decrease volume through rotating different sections of MuBiks. We followed a user-centered-design approach to design the player. Contextual inquiry in the form of semi-structured interviews among teachers and students were conducted across three blind schools in Assam and Madhya Pradesh in India. A series of tasks was given to users to understand patterns of existing communication through texture and size identification. Heavy dependence on memory and secondary help, easy recognition of texture, shape, size and sound and extensive use of hands were observed during the study. Identified insights were referred and accommodated to design proposed music player.

User Study and Analysis

Contextual inquiries, semi-structured user and expert interviews and task based analysis was conducted with 5 students at the Guwahati Blind School. the insights from the study informed the interactions of the system. The following points were condidered:
~Users’ familiarity with identification of shapes, sizes and textures
~Users' familiarity and comfort while rotating objects
~Portablity since users multi-task while listening to music.
~Users heavy dependence on memory and secondary help

Based on these, tasks and interactions were brainstormed. Tasks with the system were sketched and interactions with the system was inspired by the user study.


System Overview

Inspired from the form of "Rubiks cube", the system consisted of two cubical tokens or MuBiks differing in size. The smaller MuBiks was a playlist (p-MuBiks) while the bigger one contained a song database (d-MuBiks). Each MuBiks consisted of three horizontal sections. The middle section was fixed whereas the top and the bottom sections could freely rotate along the Z-axis only. The two rotating sections could be differentiated through textures.The middle section was made relatively smaller in size to help users to hold the cube. Rotating top section of MuBiks clockwise played a song whereas rotating it anti-clockwise paused it. Similarly, rotating the bottom section clockwise increased the volume while rotating it anti-clockwise decreased the volume. Shaking the MuBiks changed a song. If a song was being played from the database, it could be transferred to the playlist by simply touching the two MuBiks. The confirmation of transfer was given in the form of auditory feedback.



A low-fidelity prototype was developed using arduino board, potentiometers, gyroscope and bump sensors. Potentiometers were set-up inside upper and lower sections of the MuBiks to toggle volume and play/pause controls. Gyroscope was set-up to detect rapid change in motion while shaking the MuBiks to change the songs. Bump sensors were placed to detect collision between the two MuBiks and initiate transfer of the current song from d-MuBiks to p-MuBiks.



The system is yet to be tested to evaluate usability issues. Further improvements could to be done with respect to the shape and form of MuBiks and the kind of feedback received. For instance, instead of a cubical form we can have a truncated pyramidal or frustum like shape. Additionally, the surface could include letters in Braille to identify different playlists or functions. The system could also be made ubiquitous by networking it with external speakers or other music systems and devices.
On a broader perspective, the same player, with additional research on its features and functionality, could be imitated for the general population and developed as an accessory-cum-interactive music player. The concept opens wide avenues for further exploration.