What if you could transform a sketch of your favorite musical instrument into something that actually plays music? Welcome to MusicInk, an innovative new educational toy invented to teach children about the properties of sound in a fun and interactive way.
The brainchild of Gilda Negrini and Riccardo Vendramin from Milan's Polytechnic School, MusicInk requires users to draw one of four instruments - guitar with strings, trumpet, drum or piano keys, using the stencils and the paint that are provided. The magic as you may have guessed lies in the latter, which is not just any paint, but a unique invention called Bare Paint, that looks and acts just like any other colorant but becomes conductive, as soon as it dries.
The drawings are then connected to an Arduino-driven electronic circuit board and an MPR121 Sparkfun Controller that transform the paper instruments into capacitive proximity sensors that are capable of reacting to gestures (similar to how the iPhone reacts to taps and swipes).
Then comes the fun part. When user 'plays' the instrument by either tapping on the drum or pushing down the valve of the trumpet or even strumming the guitar, the signal is received by the sensors and transmitted to a Smartphone app via Bluetooth. The app deciphers the signal and projects the music - and not just any random notes either, but ones that would emit from the real instrument if it were being played by the musicians of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The best part is that the instruments do not have to be played one at a time - As many as twelve kids can play different instruments simultaneously, and create their own orchestra.
However, before you dash out looking for this magical musical instrument making kit, bear in mind that it is still only a prototype and though it may appear perfect to us, the creators are not yet satisfied. They are still tinkering with the design to make MusicInk even more intuitive, customizable and hopefully even wireless, before bringing it to market.
Also, though the first application of the toy is intended for younger children to experiment and play with their drawings, MusicInk has a more complex but equally magical toy in store for older students - One that will use different patterns to teach them about the various nuances of sounds like pitch, intensity, timbre, and duration.