A transient interactive installation that connects the passersby through musical discover

“Ting” is a musical installation which takes the form of a small path. It consists of interactive stepping stones that trigger music and light effects when stepped on. We extracted design elements from Chinese gardening landscapes to further amplify the atmosphere. According to the theory of situation design, users can change the environment through their behaviours, and finally identify with and resonate with the space environment they are in.

When passersby are attracted by the device and try it, they might first play with a single slate. After they understand the feedback mechanism, they would be pleasantly surprised and interested. Curiosity and fun would drive them to walk among the stone slabs and lilypads, while fascinated by the music and ambient light effects. When more than two people step onto the slates, harmonious music is produced, and people interact with each other through creating music cooperatively. This is how and when the connection between people is established and strengthened.

Technical Development & Construction

The whole system is built around the combination of arduino and unreal engine 4. Specifically, arduino recognizes users’ interaction with the installation and passes signals to unreal engine. Unreal engine on the other hand, handles the visuals and triggers events responding to the signals from arduino.

On the arduino side, the team built 12 stones and lilypads, each paired with an LED strip and a force sensitive resistor. Considering security and ease of repeated connection, ethernet cable is heavily used in the circuit. In reflection to this, the stones and lilypads are divided into groups of three so we can maximise the use of 8-pin ethernet cable.

Arduino is connected to unreal engine 4 using a plugin called UE4duino. We created a water material and ripple particle effect as a part of running water visuals. Upon receiving signals from arduino, the system on the unreal side would trigger events correspondingly, such as playing a guzheng note, play a ripple effect or a petal effect.

During the construction, we learned to cut plywood using a cnc machine, assemble and process circuit components, write blueprints in unreal engine and so on. The team faced countless technical problems big and small, but with organized teamwork and massive help from Lorna and Clay, we are here to present you the final delivery of our product, Ting.

In the final exhibition, the installation remained the form as was designed by the team, with stepping stones and lilypads laid on the grass field and projector standing aside. However, we encountered unexpected difficulties during the setup on both days, including bad connections, bugs in the program and so on. Fortunately the team managed to remain calm under the stress and eventually solved the problems.

Despite the long time spent on troubleshooting during setups, the exhibition went fairly well in terms of public experience and response. As soon as the installation was up and running, the passersby couldn’t wait and started stepping, running and jumping on it. Seeing people so excited and fascinated by TING, we all felt relieved. When people pass by, they’re often attracted by the look of the installation and stop to watch how others play with it before trying themselves. People stepping on for the first time tend to be pleasantly surprised by the response they get from TING - LED lights, ripples and music. Feeling interested, they then tell their friends to play with them and create music. We were delighted to see strangers cooperate and explore TING together. During the exhibition, poor TING hardly get a chance to rest because children absolutely love it and couldn’t stop playing on it. We’re so glad that TING is popular among the younger user group.

Even though we were satisfied with the outcome, we also reflected on what we should do better. For instance, the connection of stones and lilypads could be built stronger so they don’t break apart while people are playing. This not only keeps the installation running but also enhance sequrity since children could be tripped by wires and fall. We also thought about how we could further improve TING through expanding the playfield area so more people can play at the same time without constantly bumping into each other.