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Ambient Horn

Background here

Alternative Designs here

Final Design

The final design builds on the lessons learnt from the prototype 'Techno-Horn'. To reduce the bulk of the device, and to avoid accidental operation, the MP3 player has been removed and an ISD2560 sound chip installed in it's place (thanks, Danielle).

The overall design has been made to appear similar to the Ambient Wood Probe with a rotary switch to select either plant sounds or wildlife sounds

The specification of the sound chip is more limiting than the MP3 player - only 60 secs of audio are available - however the speed of response is almost instant (the MP3 player required 1 sec/track to cue i.e. 12 secs for track 12)

The push switch now triggers the playing of the sound and does not require to be held on. An additional indicator LED has been added (the horn also 'honks' when a ping is received).

Comparison with Prototype and Probe

The Prototype

Final Design

Moisture/Light Probe

cliff on 13th June 2003

Alternative Designs

1. The Natural Horn

The original concept was to acquire real/plastic horns such as these:-

The original design concept has proved to be something of a challenge, especially to find horns which are large enough to house the mp3 player. So here are some tentative alternative practical designs for the prototype.

2. The Box-Horn

The form factor here is the 'box + horn' with an attempt being made to echo the organic shape of the natural horn and to provide an interesting technical object. The mp3 player is inside the white box - the red leds flash when a ping is received. The sound is triggered by the push button:-
a) Horn on the sideb) Horn on the end

3. The Techno-Horn

Yvonne suggested that we have the mp3 player outside the box, this provides a much more techy solution with the possibility of the children being able to operate the player themselves as well as having sounds automatically cued. The horn itself could be used as the speaker housing. n.b. the player controls would not be able to generate pings/elvin messages.

4. The Blue-Horn

Danielle came up with the idea of using a sound chip instead of a MP3 player - the design could look similar to 3. (smaller and without the Rio player - and it would need a 'play' button), or might even enable us to return to the original concept 1.

Sooooooooo, where did I put my copy of 'Stop Making Sense' .........

cliff on 9th May 2003


Cliff's first thoughts and sketches for a simple interactive device using location triggers from Pingers. In response to observations at the 2002 Ambient Wood trials:-

"We had engineered the digital information to be presented to the children in a more pervasive way, i.e. where their bodily presence in an area triggered the digital information to appear on the PDA, or sounds to be played through nearby wireless loudspeakers. In these contexts, the children did not have control, but relied the serendipity of their movements as to whether they passed in the vicinity of a Pinger. The children were never quite certain when this would happen and were often surprised when they heard a sound or saw an image on the PDA screen. Part of our intention of using this pervasive technique was indeed to introduce an element of surprise and the unexpected. Another reason was to augment their physical experience, by drawing their attention to certain aspects of the habitat, they might not have noticed otherwise, and providing relevant contextual knowledge that they could integrate with what they saw. Sometimes this approach worked, and the children related the digital information that was being sent to them on the PDA with what they saw in the wood in front of them (e.g. a real thistle). However, at other times, the children were too engrossed in doing something else and so would miss the beginning part of a voice-over or not even notice a sound. In these moments, the children were often reluctant to switch their attention to what was happening on the PDA from what they were doing."

The intention of the Horn design is to try to maintain the effect of the surprise by the apparently serendipitous triggering of digital information (by the location pingers), and at the same time introduce an element of control, or interaction, which would allow the children to choose exactly when the information is played. This would also ensure that the beginning of each audio sequence is properly heard. By being able to turn their attention to the Horn when they choose the children can remain engrossed in other activities until one of them notices the LEDs flashing. It's envisaged that the Horn would be worn on the body so it would be more likely that the 'hornless' child would notice it flashing before the wearer - leading to interaction between the children - "hey, the Horn's flashing, let's listen to it!".

The sequence of operation is envisaged as:-

  1. Children enter Pinger zone
  2. LEDs flash on Horn
  3. Children notice lights and agree to listen to sounds
  4. Horn is held to ear (tilted upwards), or
  5. Key is pressed to play sound
  6. Optional elvin notification (ping to PDA)
  7. Optional image displayed on PDA

Here's a rough sketch with some design thoughts and questions:-

Comments, observations and more thoughts welcome!

cliff on 21st March 2003

This page last updated June 17, 2003
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