IxDA

Shortlisted in the "Disrupting" category at the IXDA 2013 Interaction Awards.

past.fm is an audio device that provides users with a tangible timeline of their listening history and other time-based music content.

Overview

past.fm is a tangible interface, rooted in how people associate particular songs with specific time-periods of their lives. Using a token, users can access their listening history and scrub through a timeline of their favourite music.

The token accesses this data through the user's last.fm account which "scrobbles" music services/applications such as Spotify/iTunes, tracking their listening history. Tokens can also connect to curated genre histories or artist discographies, allowing users to learn about the evolution of music over time.

When the token is placed in the dock, the songs are mapped onto the timeline based on their time-stamps. If the token is connected to a user's history, the range would be the time they have been using that service divided by month. At each point, it plays the user’s most-played song that month. Whereas, if the token is referring to a genre (e.g. jazz) the range would consist of several decades. The slider is then used to navigate through a curated list of jazz hits by year.

The tangibility of the interface encourages both focus and playfulness when reflecting on one's listening history. The use of tokens allows for sharing and exchanging between friends.

Craft

In building past.fm, we used a mixture of digital technologies and crafting techniques. Our aim was to create the most intuitive interaction possible for navigating through a person's music history. After many experiments with form, we decided to use a linear timeline. It was important that the slider be of appropriate length; however, existing slide potentiometers in the market were not long enough. To solve this problem, we hacked into a used inkjet printer and appropriated the slider mechanism and the optical encoder. Great care was taken into crafting the perfect sliding feel and ergonomics. The "revolved" shape of the slider knob was chosen from multiple options that were handmade using a lathe machine.

For the materials, we chose beech wood for the main touch points which will age with use; like patina on furniture. The tokens contain small RFID tags, they are compact for portability and storage purposes. The bottom parts of the body were 3D-modeled using Rhinoceros to simulate the internal layout of electronics.

past.fm is a working prototype using a combination of two connected Arduino boards, RFID reader, optical encoder, LCD, an mp3 shield, and an amplifier.

Curious about our process and "how it works"? Check this video: vimeo.com/52928879

j vimeo.com/51234933

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