BotFactory Squink - First Impressions with NYU MusED + MIT Media Lab

Carlos Ospina (BF)

Yesterday Botfactory went down to NYU to meet Alex Ruthmann from the Music Experience Design Labs (Mus-ED Labs) and Eric Rosenbaum from the MIT Media Lab to loan an early version of the BotFactory Squink. The one thing we’ve been excited about, even a little scared as well, is what happens when we actually put a machine in someone’s hands for the first time. We’ve been spending two years building, rebuilding, tweaking and debugging the Squink – imagine how satisfying it felt to see other experiment with it and see the magic happen!

Alex and Eric work primarily in developing new apps and hardware for people to interact with music. Their primary purpose was to print conductive traces and place components to create user-friendly hardware interfaces for kids or young adults to play with. Alex talked about creating origami-like objects from paper with traces attached, allowing for a whole new manner of interaction with music. Eric and Alex has been working on a variety of products like the Makey Makey, an 'inventor's kit' for kids that changes the paradigm of play. The Makey Makey picked up $500k in their Kickstarter in 2012!

Cramped together in Alex’s office in Manhattan, we plugged in the Squink and began to play with it. Eric made a simple .png image of ‘Hello World’ with traces leading to each word – in less than 30 minutes we went from idea to triggering a voice sample of Alex speaking 'Hello World!' with our fingers. You could even have one person place their finger on 'Hello' and another person place their finger on 'World' and complete the circuit when they did a high-five. Take a look at the video!

As Eric played with the Squink software, we learned alot about how we can improve the UX and UI. Over the next few weeks, before we replace them with a final version, Alex and Eric will be our favourite beta testers and giving us feedback about what works and what doesn't. We look forward to seeing what they make next!