The video demonstrated that the project works well and is fun to use. In its absurdity, it playfully explores the often misunderstood relationships between form and function quite eloquently.
The BeetBox is a simple instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets. It is powered by a Raspberry Pi with a capacitive touch sensor and an audio amplifier in a handmade wooden enclosure.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Despite incredible advances in technology in recent decades, our primary means of interaction with our electronics are antiquated. Keyboards and monitors have gotten thinner and sleeker, but we're still clicking mechanical keys while staring at glowing rectangles, as we have been for over forty years. Even modern touch screens (as they are most commonly used) are a step backward because they generally rely on virtual analogs of the same mechanical buttons without any of the tactility of the original—not to mention the fact that we've yet to escape glowing rectangles.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
BeetBox is primarily an exploration of perspective and expectations. I’m particularly interested in creating complex technical interactions in which the technology is invisible—both in the sense that the interaction is extremely simple and in the literal sense that no electronic components can be seen.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Developing the BeetBox required the synthesis of disparate skills in craft, design and software development. The selection of quality, natural materials was of major importance, as was the physical design of the box itself—particularly so that it was both useable and aesthetically pleasing from all angles. Both the design and the internals went through several iterations. The original prototype used the same touch sensor as the final version, but included a microcontroller connected to an external laptop for sound generation, which compromised the experience of a "magical" interaction. Only once all of the electronic components were enclosed in the box did the effect really take hold.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
While as a product the BeetBox is essentially a novelty, it demonstrates the possibility of a technological future comprised not of sterile glass and glowing buttons, but of warm, natural materials and familiar human gestures. Technology is at its best when it is utterly invisible.