Umat is an entertainment product that enhances the perception of the sound of musical instruments. The product is aimed at supporting inexperienced children and have a strong interest in musical instruments, namely 6 to 8-year-old children, in middle childhood education. The chosen user demographic is often unfamiliar with musical instruments, and have a strong desire – being curious, there is often an expressed passion for exploring sound in daily life. Unlike traditional music products, which are single and low interaction for kids playing, Umat aims to fill that gap by physically stepping on mat that can trigger sounds as relevant auditory cues. Specific musical instruments can be triggered by player stepping on the mat at random and led strip can light up when player stands on the mat.
Playing with sound is the focus of growing educational interest and has inspired research into children's multidisciplinary perspectives and the role of sound and music on the playing experience. The similarity of sound products makes it challenging for parents to find novel resources, and different functions with up to numerous products. The goal of this product is to support and help children recognize the sounds of different musical instruments. The domain of the problem lies in Playing with Sound, with a focus area centered on engaging with children and enhancing the entertainment experience.
How to Use It: 1. Read the introduction 2. Step on a square at random 3. Listen to the sound 4. Recognize which musical instrument produces the sound 5. Step on other adjacent square at random 6. Listen to the sound 7. If the two sounds are from the same musical instrument, stand on it 8. If the two sounds are not from the same musical instrument, try others until you find the same one, stand on it 9. The game is over when the player stands on the “WIN” square step by step
Umat is built primarily using Arduino as the controller and blue tooth technology. Umat consists of 25 mats lay in 5 rows and 5 columns. These 25 mats have two layers and the conductive material in between. If no people is standing on the mat, the controller will receive a low signal from the mat. Once the user steps on the mat the electricity from power is connected with the ground and sent the high signal to the controller. As the controller been notified where the user standing is, it would check with the result from the algorithm see if the user standing on the right position. Only if the user stands at the correct position can the LED strip surrounded the mat been lightened up in green color; otherwise, it would show in other colors. The controller dynamically allocates the path. The controller will firstly locate user standing position and then determine the correct option among three different options (Front, Front-Left, Front-Right) in front of users. SD card module will be used to store pieces of music. The music is retrieved from the SD card and allocated by the controller based on the calculated results from the controller. As the controller assigns each mat with a different sound, the controller will further send the piece of sound to the Bluetooth speaker via Bluetooth module based on user standing position.
Overall, the exhibition was impressive and our project was very popular and loved by the children（target audience 6-8 years old）. There were about 50-60 testers and visitors interacting with our projects（U-mat）and communicating with team-members. We appreciate their feedback and provide valuable advice for our future work and improvement.
We observed the behavior and reactions of users as they interact with the “U-mat” to help us determine which designs are successful? What needs to be improved? The feedback came mainly from two groups. 1: children (target audience) 2: guardians of children and adults. First of all, the children's feedback was undoubtedly the biggest recognition of our work. Because we found that every kid who walked by our exhibition area would stopped to visit the "U-mat". This means that the product can successfully attract the attention and interest of the target users. We tried our best to show the kids how the project works and get them to participate in the user testing. The most intuitive expression is that each child looks relaxed and happy. They liked the interactive process and the led lighting of the product. Instead, most of the kids would be paying more attention to the lights as they stand on each foam mat. Clearly, they may be missing the other core element of the project: music of instruments. And that's where we need to improve because the key point of this project is to get kids to know the sounds of different instruments as they play. Another important finding was that children were more likely to play without rules. Although someone would read posters and brochures before interacting, but they prefer to step on it directly to observe the interactive reactions generated by the project. Another good thing was that our products not only attract children but also attract some parents' attention. Adults tend to pay more attention to detail than children, they were asking for more details about process work of the project. Their feedback was that if there is a similar music and lighting product on the market, they were willing to buy it for children. More than half of the visitors would ask us how our products are made, and we showed them the inner structure of the mat. Almost everyone would be surprised by the sheer number of wires, led light strips and soldering workload. Although the "u-mat" suffers from various degrees of damage, resulting in some incomplete functions. However, visitors have expressed their recognition for our products through our product display and detailed introduction.
After talking with some parents, we believe that we should continue to improve the safety of the project. A completed and successful product requires us to hide too many wires，These materials exposed to the outside of the product were also one of the problems in the display process. In the same way, the led lights and wires need better reinforcement because they are too easy to damage, especially our target users are lively children. Therefore, we need to enhance safety and robustness at the same time in the future work.