The first few weeks was spent on replicating amplifier and synthesizer circuits to test out the sounds of the labyrinth maze toy.
LM386N-4 Low Voltage Amplifier
I managed to work out a rough circuit through a tutorial from https://www.circuitbasics.com/build-a-great-sounding-audio-amplifier-with-bass-boost-from-the-lm386 .
Bigger learning points from this circuit building exercise is understanding the components that make up an amplifier and how replacing values of them would affect the general outcome. I understood the difference with gain and volume clearly through the tutorial and also learnt a bit more about the use of capacitors and removing noise from the output.
In conclusion the amplifier is a really crude amp in terms of sound quality but I feel they are still vital in my prototype circuits as they amplify the oscillator signals enough to do a quick sketch.
This oscillator was a straightforward circuit that can be developed further when exploring the other paths in the IC chip. Through changing the resistance and capacitor values, the pitch and tone of the sounds created change accordingly. With this IC chip there are multiple inverters that can be connected to have various oscillators in one output. This makes the sounds created pretty interesting with a little more depth from just a plain single AC frequency wave.
I didn’t experiment with combining too many inverters on the first circuit, but came up with two contrasting sounds from changing the value of one of the capacitors. One made a screaming low pitch drone while the other made a pulsating beep similar to a bomb. This can be seen in the video later in this post.
integration of circuit to labyrinth machine
To match the motion of the control systems of the toy to the oscillator, I had to attach the knobs to control the potentiometers that are connected in to the oscillator. The prototype was a really crude mock up with wood blocks and glue gun.
Here was the user testing of the control play through that had no external additions to the game, and with the synthesiser connected.
BIG THINK THOUGHTS:
1) Relationship between action and sound intensity.
After some user testing, one point brought up by a lab rat was that the correlation of the movement is not in sync with the sound. For example when the ball is moving quickly from a big tilt of the panel, the sounds/pulse produced may be slow and calm. That occurs as the knobs are linked to potentiometers that go from one extreme to the other. So the extreme left may be slow and the right be quick. Therefore the movement of the ball may not match the sounds produced when interacting with the toy.
This brings up the question of the relationship of the object with the sound. Would I want the sound to be the sonification of the game being played? Do I develop the sounds created to be gamified and use is as a tool to enhance the suspense and tension of the game and the player?
2) Lower speed vs Higher Speed ( Capacitor values)
As seen in the video there were two contrasting sounds, one sounding more like a haunting drone while the other like a anxiety inducing alarm. The people who tried the toy out felt that there was a stronger relationship between the pulsating tone and pitch which was created by the 0.47uf Capacitor. I feel that the pulses matches the intensity of the game and the players are currently have then attention more on the game rather than the sounds being created after.
3) The sound of Losing / Winning
After the previous discussion, the idea of capturing the sound where the user was going to win or lose was brought up. The idea of the sonification of the panic or excitement before the event is an interesting study. Additionally LP mentioned if there would be a way if people listen to the sounds and are able to imagine or guess what game / part of the game the player is at. This reminded me of the community of speed runners in video games who do challenges where they complete a boss game completely based on sound cues while they are blindfolded. This aspect of the sound of the game and listening will be something I will revisit after the upcoming prototypes.
4) Control test (benchmark)
Bryan assisted being the control test in playing the maze toy as a toy, not connected to any synths or additional sounds. We did the control test after messing around with the different sound settings of the synthesiser. He mentions the silence allowed him to concentrate on the game with more attention. This pointed me to listen to the quieter sounds of the interaction, the ball hitting the maze walls, the ball rolling on the wood. These sounds are natural to the game and accompanies the interaction subtly. Observing it the silence does more than the anxious sounding synthesiser beeps in terms of playing with the suspense and challenge the participant goes through.