VDES20146 Project 3: Sound Interactions

Project by Tany Dourev and Sydney Cowling

PROJECT BRIEF: Students are continue their circuit explorations from project 2 to create an interactive object that explores the theme of sound. This combines 3D modelling, as well as circuit building and coding with the Arduino software.



For this project, we worked together on gathering ideas for the visual research portion. We wanted to stay away from extremely abstract designs, due to having explored that in project 1. The following images are the preliminary ones that we specifically drew inspiration from for both a design and sound.

  1. Bird – higher pitched sounds, short and melodical.
  2. Table – the surface is illuminated and round, could be used as inspiration for the base of the object.
  3. Strawberry lights – “mood lights”, make for good bedside lights, can be different colours or levels of brightness.
  4. Round pendant light – broad spectrum of colour, can set an interesting mood if illuminated right.
  5. Plant – bottom-up illumination, wireframe-look design on plant leaves, has a very futuristic and neo vibe to it.
  6. Snail – the antennae could be used as knobs to control a function, the shell could be a surface that gets illuminated with a light on the inside.

Based on our research, we wanted to turn our attention to designs that would have practical uses. We came up with the idea of designing some sort of mood light, which not only would be able to change colours with the press of a button or the turn of a dial, but would emit a sound based on the colour it was set to. For example, the colour yellow would emit a happy, high-pitched noise, while the colour blue would emit something more mellow and low. By adding in the aspect of sound, it would bring the whole “mood light” concept to another level and make it more interactive.


When we came up the idea of the mood light, we wanted to get creative with the design. Pinterest was truly our best friend and showed us really good results. What caught our attention was the way that a lot of lights played with colours and were designed to emphasize the colours as much as possible.

As shown in the images above, the forms of the actual lights are creative but still designed in a way that would maximize the light coming out of them. With our idea, we want to ensure that the colour can be controlled easily, which means that there would need to be some sort of button or dial to complete that function. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any images in particular that expressed the interactive component design that we were thinking of.


The following are image palettes that we gathered in order to help us associate emotions with certain colours. The goal is that the colour and sound should evoke the emotion that is typically associated with it.

SADNESS (dark blue, gray, dark purple, black):

HAPPINESS (yellow, orange, light blue):

LOVE (red, pink, brown):


The following videos are examples of sounds that could be used as inspiration for the sounds that we want to make.


The following are examples of interactions that we could possibly implement. If we were to develop the concept fully and create a physical prototype, we would most likely eliminate the basic sensors (potentiometer, photoresistor, etc.) and work with touch sensors a lot more.

  • Left: POM Gear Gemini speaker uses a touch sensor on top of the speaker that when tapped, changes the colour and type of light that illuminates the speaker.
  • Right: Muuto control table lamp uses a turning dial that turns the light on and off, as well as adjust the brightness of the light.


For our first prototype, we decided that we would continue with the concept of creating a mood lamp that would emit a sound based on the colour. For the sake of the deadline, we chose to create sounds for only four colours – red, yellow, blue and pink. Realistically, if we were to design this as a proper product, all colours of the rainbow would be included and sounds would be make for all colours.


The variations that we came up with for the object combined both realistic appearances and features, as well as abstract designs. The goal was to create an interesting light that could be features not just as a light, but even as an accent piece, should the user decide that it suits being in a living room or bedroom.

All designs feature two buttons – one controls the color/light on and the second is a dial to control the brightness. We wanted to design our mood lamp to have that dial in case we managed to also get a potentiometer working in our circuit, in addition to the button.

The first design was slightly inspired by a render that was done during project 1, which was more abstract. The light would be emitted from the center piece, while the sound would come from more within.

The second design was inspired by one of the images that we had initially found as inspiration for the project. The light would come from the inside center rod, which intersects with a platform that would be the speaker.

The third design was inspired by the oval-shaped lamps and air conditioner that are found on the market. The light would be emitted from the inner part of the ring, while the sound would come from a section on the outer part of the ring.

The fourth design was inspired a hanging chandelier that had a bowl shape. The light would come from the inside center rod, while the sound would come from the top of the light. Rather than relying on buttons found on the actual lamp, this design incorporates the use of a remote that controls the colour and brightness.


We originally intended to work with the Flora Smart RBG NeoPixels in order to be able to control the colour of the light, but after lots of research and failures with the code, we decided to switch to using RBG LEDs. These will be easier to work with and the code will be less complicated to write.

At the time of writing this post, we are unable to provide any images of a built circuit because our school kits didn’t include RGB LEDs, so we were required to order them separately, in addition to new push buttons that would be easier to use. However, we do have the code written for a circuit in which the user presses a button to turn on the LED and change its colour. For reference, this is the video that led us to this idea and from which we will be using part of the code.

Schematic for RBG LED with button.


For the second prototype, we continued to test out various codes and combine different circuits to see what would work. We also began experimenting with materials for the mood light object and creating various renders with the coloured lighting.


Moving forward with the mood light design, we decided that we would experiment with the fourth model. Using Rhino 6, we began playing around with various material combinations and surfaces to see what would look best. Originally, we combined a lot of wood materials, which didn’t look bad but contrasted a bit with the way that center light was illuminated.

The following images show screenshots of different combinations of wood materials and skylight adjustments. The wood materials that we tested out were a light beech and a dark pine.

We decided that we weren’t particularly excited about how it looked, so we switched to using a light gray plaster material for the exterior. We kept the speaker at the top of the light a black plaster material and the surface that the object was on had a Japanese elm material

This material seemed to look a lot better with the illumination, so we chose to stick with this material and change the colour of the light to match. The remote to control the lighting had a combination of plaster and plastic.

The following images are a comparison between the pre-render and the final rendered image. To showcase the illumination, we turned down the skylight all the way to simulate darkness.


When the RBG LEDs and the buttons came in, the original code that we had written worked flawlessly and the LED was able to change colours upon button press. The next step was trying to incorporate the sounds and see if they would play at the same time as the light turned on.

Schematic for RGB LED, button and speaker.

Unfortunately, there were many issues with trying to combine the two and it turned out that rather than the notes playing from the speaker, the LED would react strangely as if the notes somehow dictated the rate of the flickering. We also ran into the issue of the LED cycling through colours without any buttons being pressed, which was a major issue.

Taking a step back, we separated the two codes and decided that since the LED worked, we would direct our focus to making the sounds work. Upon further research, we decided to test out connecting multiple buttons on the analog side of the Arduino UNO that would each play a different sound – this was done using a LED so that we could ensure that the everything was connected properly. Once we knew that it worked, we tested out playing basic single-note tones upon button press, but despite those working, we still couldn’t get the notes to play.

Schematic for connecting multiple buttons to an analog pin (A0) – https://www.the-diy-life.com/multiple-push-buttons-on-one-arduino-input/.

We connected with a classmate who was able to take a look at the code and help us re-organize it. Along with him, we ended up putting together a different circuit and writing a much more basic code that combined if statements with booleans. Thanks to this new code, we were able to get the notes to play only on the associated button press, which was a massive improvement.

Once the sounds worked, we added in the previous code for the RBG LED. Rather than relying on the sound-triggering buttons to control it, we added an extra button that would only correspond to the LED. None of the code that we have written combines the simultaneous turning on of the LED and playing of the sound at the same time.

Schematic V2 for RGB LED, buttons and speaker.
Prototype 2 demo.

Prototype 2 documentation repository on Github: https://github.com/tanydourev/VDES20146-3D-Design-Project-3—Sound-Interactions



We decided that we wanted to keep the design for the mood light as it was and didn’t make any changes for the final submission. To reiterate, here are the final renders.

The mood light is controlled using a remote that connects wirelessly. The remote can turn on the light and control the colour of the light upon a button press, which will automatically cause the respective sound to play. It also has a rolling dial that can be used to adjust the brightness of the light.


The physical setup of the circuit didn’t change from the second prototype. The only changes that we made were adding the remaining sounds and combining the code into a finalized file. To reiterate, here is the final schematic.

Final schematic for project 3.
Final demo.

Final code documentation repository on Github: https://github.com/tanydourev/VDES20146-3D-Design-Project-3—Sound-Interactions