Enabling Accessible, High-Performance Digital Crafts for Makers and Artists

Lead Participant: Augmented Instruments Ltd

Abstract

This project will create powerful yet accessible tools for craft practitioners to create interactive digital systems. The project is based on Bela, an open-source embedded hardware platform designed for interactive audio applications such as musical instruments, audio effects and sound art installations. Bela has an established user community in audio technology, research and education, but this project proposes to address a potentially larger community of makers and craftspeople of all levels of technical experience.

The maker movement, which consists of a diverse global collection of artists, craftspeople, hobbyists and educators pursuing do-it-yourself approaches to technology creation, is a growing economic force in the UK and abroad. While many hardware and software tools exist targeting this market sector, there are few good options which combine state-of-the-art processing power, connectivity to physical sensors and materials, and ease of getting started. Some of the most popular tools are based on outdated technology, while tools capable of creating the richest, most nuanced interactive systems are still targeted primarily at experienced engineers.

During the project, we will create a proof-of-concept of a new generation of Bela hardware which is smaller, lower-cost and modular, allowing the user to interface with electronic textiles (e-textiles), paper circuits, microphones, speakers, sensors and actuators. This will be coupled with a software framework running in the browser which comes with a rich and adaptable set of example materials. We will take a human-centred approach to developing these materials, assessing the needs of the community early in the project and validating the results through workshops led by research partner Queen Mary University of London.

Innovate UK funding will allow us to invest in validating new ideas and approaches which we could not feasibly fund from our current sales income alone. The project outcomes will let us significantly expand our business by creating lower-cost Bela hardware that is suitable for third-party distribution. It will also help us reach a global customer base which consists not only of technically-inclined musicians and audio developers, but also makers and craft practitioners of all disciplines and backgrounds. In so doing, the project will deliver benefits to the UK economy by generating activity across the supply chain and expanding the pool of people who can create their own interactive digital systems.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

 

Participant

Augmented Instruments Ltd

Publications

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