Featured, Flash, iOS, Objects
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Little Boxes – Music box for the iPad by Joelle Aeschlimann (ECAL)

LB_1 copy

Created by Joelle Aeschlimann at ECAL, Little Boxes is a music box prototype created for the iPad. It consists of a tangible part composed of three separate music boxes that interact with an iPad in different ways. When placed the device, turning the lever generates the music and visual content.

Joelle describes the idea is that each box contains its own universe revealed by the action of the crank with an animation and melody proper to each. The aim is to give a new dimension to the music box, and transcribe visual sensations that don’t exist in a standard music box. This work reflects her desire to play with the physical and digital elements by making them interact. It allowed Joelle to embrace different areas, and confront herself with creative and technical challenges.

Joelle tells CAN that the main challenge of this project was to make music boxes recognized by the iPad. The materials used must be conductive to be detected by the capacitive screen of the iPad. Another point was the accuracy of the music boxes’ achievement because all the elements composing the music box must be very precisely adjusted.

The music boxes were constructed using conductive rubber tips from commercially available pens. The first prototype was entirely produced in metal: a simple metal cylinder with a hole to pass the crank. To differentiate touch materials between analogue and digital, Joelle finally settled to make the music boxes in wood. Made of two pieces, in between lies a strip of metal of a finger’s height for the conductivity. The crank is attached to an axis connected to a metal plate where the two rubber tips are placed. Finally, a spring is placed to allow better adhesion of the rubber tips on the iPad. This allow the pressure of the rubber tips to be more adapted, and so to not impede the rotation of the crank while being strong enough to be detected by the iPad.

The position and rotation of the two rubber tips on the iPad allows the application to know the position of the box and to calculate the rate at which animations and sounds will be played. To distinguish the several music boxes, rubber tips are placed at different distances.

Software: Adobe Air for iOS
Hardware: iPad / Custom Wooden Boxes


Tutor: Alain Bellet, Gael Hugo, Christophe Guignard
ECAL / University of Art and Design, Lausanne Switzerland
Bachelor Media & Interaction Design

  • precociousmouse

    really nice concept, and simple solution :) shouldn’t be a massive issue to port this to android