“Sound of Touch” Research

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We were tasked with developing a method to explore translating a couple’s intimate touching into music. Our concept was to develop a wearable device that is able to sense skin to skin connection between two people. By sensing the amount that a couple is touching, we then have a metric that we can use to create a sound signature.


The method that made the most sense to us was to create a sequencer whereby touches are translated into slowly fading tones. Pitch and volume are dictated by the amount of pressure and speed of movement of the touch.

Our inspiration for this was Brian Eno’s “Bloom” app. Here, any random combination of screen touches can create pleasing sounds.

Research and Methodology

Our method of sensing two people touching is to sense capacitance: Capacitance is the ability of an object (or person) to store an electrical charge. Using a small circuit, we are able to sense the capacitance value of a person, then see how that value changes when touched by another person, and the pressure of the touch. While using this method does not let us know the area of body that is touched, we are able to add other sensors to our device (accelerometer) which let’s us read how quickly a person’s hand is moving.

To gain more fidelity in our sensing, we checked out the research of the Disney Research group: They devised a method to use a range of frequencies when doing capacitive sensing to increase the resolution of the sensing, and to create a specific identifiable signature of an object:

We further built our prototype using the Touche for Arduino project developed by []. This is a project built on the Arduino architecture:


Touché for Arduino from Mads Hobye on Vimeo.

Challenges and Build

Our approach : First Steps

Our challenge was to take this sensing approach, and use the range of frequencies and turn it into the strongest number. We then needed to make this into a small, wireless wearable device. Finally we needed to deal with the challenge sensing wirelessly: When the sensing circuit is able to reference earth ground, we are able to get a very consistent range of values. However without that reference to earth ground we will not get the same fidelity of values. However we won’t be able to see how strong these values are until we build the device and are able to wirelessly debug the values.

Our approach : Building the Device

KY Research – Sound with body from MadSci on Vimeo.

KY Research – sound synthesis test w/ apples from MadSci on Vimeo.

Floating Ground : How to resolve this

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