Author Archives: gmsky

Spatial Musical Instrument for the Hearing Impaired


The aim of this project is not to ‘prescribe’ hearing impaired people a spatial instrument so that they can start interacting with music. There are already many cures to deafness and the currently incurable kind (sensorineural hearing loss) is not to be treated with the techniques being used in this project as it is a rather a neurological deficiency than a mechanical one. This project rather aims to create a setting where hearing impaired people and people with optimal hearing can generate and listen to music together without having the impaired individuals feeling like they need an “aid” or “fix” to fully be a part of a musical context. This is eventually an attempt to revert the marginalizing effects of biological obstacles on communally shared spaces and activities

Sci-fi inspiration: J G Ballard, Sound Sweep
My departure point was J G Ballard’s science fiction story Soundsweep where, due to the noise pollution in a distant future, contemporary musicians start shifting the sound range within which they compose into an ultrasonic level. Therefore, since there are not any audible music left; sound, once created, does not leave any residues behind. In this future society, where everybody seemingly listen to this “ultrasonic” music and enjoy it, nobody practically hear anything. This scenery inspired me to design a musical setting where the actors are seen as practically listening to nothing ,with their open ears, yet do react to music that is being played literally inside their heads through bone conduction!
Above, you can find some excerpts from J G Ballard’s science fiction story “Sound Sweep” with my illustrations. And here, you can view a more interactive narration of the story.

On the other hand, in an era where huge efforts are in the making for the democratization of musical creation and accessibility, it seems unfair to see hearing impaired individuals being a part of the communal aspect of music at a very restricted level. With today’s technology, we are able to cure most hearing deficincies, and the ones that are currently incurable (most kinds of sensorineural hearing loss) are being profoundly studied. Therefore, it is not the medical effort but the designer’s will what seems what is missing in enlarging hearing impaired’s social comfort zone today. The question I want to ask with this statement is: what can we do to create more inclusive spaces not only for those who are experiencing biological hardnesses (this is still a type of “pozitive” marginalization in fact) but to arrive to a level where these “impariment” implications are no longer relevant. In the search for an answer to this question, I decided to create a spatial music instrument to be played collectively by both hearing impaired individuals and individuals with optimal hearing.


To provide a bit background on the anatomic underlays of the hearing impariment, we can broadly state that there are mainly 2 kinds of hearing impairement: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Today, if you are a hearing impaired individual and if your doctor is telling you that there is nothing the medical world can do, then you are most likely to have a sensorineural hearing loss which stems from deficiencies regarding the neural pathway of the audial perception. Contrarily, the conductive hearing loss occurs due to mechanical problems in the structure of the ear itself; before the soundwave captured by pinea reach cochlea and get transformed into a neural signal through the hair cells covering cochlea. In this type of hearing loss, as the problem is between cochlea and outer ear, bone conduction based hearing implants can be of solution since they directly excite the cochlea by by-passing the outer and the middle ear. If problem is in cochlea itself generally the deficiency can be resolved by cochlear implants.


In my project, I use a simple oscilator creating a magnetic field between two cones around which a string is tangled. As the string pass across cones, the change in magnetic field vibrates the string. This vibration is them amplified via a small metal piece connecting the string and to a large canopy covering cones. This metal canopy vibrates as the string vibrates. When one press this surface againts his skull, the bones constituting the skull starts vibrating, so do cochlea as an extention of these bones. This is how a piece of sound can reach to one’s cochlea without using one’s outer and middle ear.


Overall, since the project altogether was more ambitious than what is required by How to Make Almost Anything’s final project which is a demonstration of the combination of different skills learned during the course (hopefully in an interesting way), I decided to break the project into sub goals:

    • and build the dome
    • and build a bone conduction circuit that is embedded inside the dome
    • and build a LED circuit that flashes according to the beat of the audio
    • and build a vibration motor circuit that responds to the beat of the audio
    • 5.eventually, instead of using an audio file, design a gesture-based instrument so that the hearing impaired users can also produce the music itself other than just listening to it.

I aimed to complete the first 4 steps in the framework of this course, yet despite my efforts on trying to understand the way H-bridge works, I managed to do only the first 3. More on the process is below:


Part1_Fabricating the elements for the geodesic dome structure

A.Dome’s base

step1: Buying the metal tubes
I decided to use metal tubes for the base of the dome because this is where the vibration motors were going to be placed and steel is great to intensify vibration! I bought 10 of this EMT conduit from home depot; total cost was around $35.

step2: Cutting the metal tubes
I used the metal chop saw for cutting the tubes into the dimensions I needed in N-51


step3: Grinding the edges of the metal tubes
After cutting the metal tubes, the ends needed grinding.


For half of the tubes, I used metal grinder at N51, and for the rest, used the drilling machine with a grinder end.


step4: Bringing the tubes together to create the sitting elements of the dome

I had previously 3D printed the nodes:




Assembling the tubes with nodes:








et voila!


B. Dome’s struts

Struts are the main structural elements forming the dome. Their press-fit nature enables them to work as 3D conduits made of 2D sheets in a reversible manner which is essential for the modular and sectional nature of the project. besides,  having press-fit joints enables struts to be “openable” when needed, given the electric underlay of the project,  without disturbing their structural functions. My dream is for this structure to travel from one city to another by connecting to hearing impaired communities around the globe. In such a scenario, havin a 3D structure disassembling into 2D sheets offers an unbeatable logistic freedom!

step1: Buying the materials for struts
I decided to use 2 differet kind of material for the struts. One is a black museum board from Blick and the other one is a polycarbonate sheet from McMasterCarr. I bought approximately 10 black museum board (cost around $100) and 4 polycarbonate sheet (2 of 24×24″ + 2 of 24×48″; total cost of 4 boards were around $70).

step2: Making the cardboard press-fit struts
The press fit struts were to be made by cutting & scoring (with a laser cutter) then folding a black museum board. Therefore I started experimenting with different notch designs and scoring frequencies:


After deciding on the optimal design, since the frequency of my geodesic dome was 2, I only had to fabricate two different type of struts with different lenghts.




step3: Making the polycarbonate press-fit struts
the main reason why I wanted to make some of the struts with polycarbonate (which is clear yet not brittle as acrylic and not non-structural like polyprophelyn or acetat) is to stick some LED circuitry into its surface with vinyl cutter. However with polycarbonate, since it’s not possible to use the laser cutter due to the material’s release of toxic smoke, the process was more tricky than it was with cardboard. I was only able to use waterjet cutter for this material with which the concept of scoring doesn’t exist.

step4: Waterjet cutting the polycarbonate sheets






step5: Scoring the pieces manually by using a mask, cutter and hot air gun

So, I designed and lasercut a mask which helped me score the pieces neatly by hand.

after placing the mask on top of the waterjet cut polycarbonate piece, I clamped them to the desk to prevent layers from sliding.


then scored the polycarbonate carefully with a cutter. The mask helped me make sure that the lines were perfectly straight!


then, by applying heat to the fold lines, I increased the material’s elasticity which helped me fold it easily.



et voila!


Part2_Producing the electronics of the dome

A. Bone conduction

step 1: Deciding on the amplifier’s gain
I made 3 different iterations (gain:20, gain:50, gain:200) of my amplification board for bone conduction circuit. Used the datasheet for LM386:


gain 200
I connected a capacitor (20uf) between the pins 1 and 8 of the chip (LM386)




gain 50
I connected a capacitor (20uf) and a resistor(1.2 k ohm) between the pins 1 and 8 of the chip (LM386)




gain 20
pins 1 and 8 of the chip are disconnected




Finally, I decided on using the gain:20 one since the sound was the most clear in this circuit.

step 2: Fabricating 4 amplifier circuits


B. Beat reflective lights embedded on a clear strut

after vibrating the skull to create the sound within ones cochlea, I wanted to have a visual feedback as well as a tactile one. For the latter, I would need a vibration motor circuit and I decided to postpone it for future updates of this project since simply there was not enough time. However I decided to try the former.

step 1: Design & fabricate a small section of a LED strip for the proof of concept
homemade LED strip trace:


tracing copper sheets with vinyl cutter, trying different force intensities:


sticking them into a polycarbonate strut’s surface and populating the circuit with LEDs and resistors:


step 2: Connect the circuit to the beat detection system (arduino + processing)
Having made my own circuit for the core electronic part that was bone conduction, I decided to use an arduino duemilanove that I made during input devices week for the light addition. The programming environment was Arduino IDE and Processing (through running the standard firmata). I basically used the adapted version of my code from the interface programming week for beat detection on processing.

step 3: Actually fabricating 3 homemade LED strip embedded clear polycarbonate struts
After successing in the “proof of concept”, I decided to fabricate LED homemade LED strips for the lenght of at least 3 polycarbonate struts since I was separating the beats into 3 channels thru Processing. The main reason why I wanted to do my own LED strip by using a ton of LEDs and copper stickers is because I find the commercial LED strips super kitch. So, for the sake of being able to end up with exactly what I wanti I spent painstaking hours for the vinyl cutting of the copper, sticking the copper bands into the polycarbonate surface and soldering the resistors + LEDs into it. Ugh!!!


after vinyl cutting more copper bands, I started placing them onto the struts’ surfaces


then I soldered the resistors and LEDs


all looked pretty good, so I decided to try each strut with the actual beam detection current. Video below is a timelapse of my trouble shooting session

all done! now it was time to snap close the strut and articulate it to the structure!


C. Forehead band: interface between the bone conduction devices and the skull bones

step 1: Sewing velcro into elastic band
I bought 2 rolls of elastic band and a one roll of velcro. After cutting them into desired lenghts by making sure that they will be adjustable to different head diameters, I needed to sew the velcro into the elastic strap.


I had never used a sewing machine before but I learned how to use it pretty quickly. I was way faster compare to sewing by hand.Before using velcro and elastic band, I made some trials on a scrap textile.


Of, course I got it jammed couple of times but this problem can easily be solved by pulling the mingled thread out of the bobin repository (make sure to higher the needle before to not to break it!)


et voila!


step 2: Sewing bone conduction devices into the forehead band


finally all the velcro bands were sewed into the elastic band. now it was time to sew the bone conduction devices into the head band. I did that by hand since it required lots of attention.


now only thing I had to do was to solder the ground and VCC cables to the bone conduction device during the final assembly of the dome.


et voila!


Part3_Final integration and the set up of the dome


so far, it had been very challenging to come to this final phase. I appreciate to the truth in the illustration below:


The metal bases of the dome: check!

The black carton and clear polycarbonate struts: check!

Bone conduction amplifiers (4 of them!): check!

Adjustable forehead bands to interface the bone conduction devices to the skull: ckeck!

I have started with marking the decagon projection marking the edges of the horizonral struts. This reference is important to be able to know where to put the metal bases.


After placing the metal bases, I started articulating the black carton struts to them.



Then articulated the black carton struts to black carton struts.



even though the assebly theoretically looks fairly easy, it actually requires quite an effort since making holes in every branch of the connecting nodes is a painstaking process!


When all the struts were articulated, it was time to stretch the electric cables across them. The aim was to distribute sound (via an amplifier) from the sound source in the middle (for now, it’s a computer; at the end of the Spring semester, it will be a gesture controlled instrument!) to the each bone conduction devide embedded in a forehead band worn by an individual sitting on the metal base.


The reason why there are thousand cables is because I need 2 currents (ground abd VCC) for each LED strip embedded polycarbonate strut (there are 3 in total) and 2 currents (ground and VCC) for each bone conduction device (4 in total). Below, how the source is looking like:


and it was time to demo!

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I told the users to plug their ears wittheir fingers to enhance the bone conduction effect!

Please stay tuned for the further iterations of the project, that is it for now!

Therapist with Artificial Intelligence


The main characters in all three of the stories were having troubles with ‘being understood’ by the people surrounding them due to the social / cultural /economical / political context of their times. It was obvious to me that they need a therapist with whom they can talk!
This machine, through its “antecedent data transmitter”, can captures all the past conversations between a patient and his/her therapist in the history and collects them in a ‘knowledge database’! It matches therapists’ answers with the patients’ misgivings by keeping the identities anonymous. When listening to his patient, through pattern recognition, it detects the similar cases in its knowledge base and recalls them to be submitted to the patient. However, since this submission is not  being made orally but through neural signals, patient cannot recognize the stereotypical approach the machine has developed to his/her circumstance. Patient enjoys the mental relaxation as s/he gets his anger and sorrow out of his/her system! As people use the machine, the database expands. Thus, the machine updates itself as being used! It evolves with the humanity (and its problems).

Prototype I

Music Pavilion for the Hearing Impaired

As I have stated in my final project idea post, I plan on building a geodesic dome which aims to create the social and physical context to accomodate both non/limited hearing and optimal hearing people listen to music or just chat together, without imposing a necessity of “auditory correction on the hearing impaired individuals which is something they encounter almost in all phases of their daily life -let alone listening to music.

The way I plan on achieving this is to implement a series of microphones (for chatting) and audio input headers (for music) across upper nodes which are connected to a series of bone conductive helmets attached to the lower nodes. Users who are sitting on the sitting elements, at the base of the dome as an extension of the structure, are to put on these helmets and get connected to one another through the geodesic dome.

I have split my workflow into two main tracts: bone conduction technology adaptation and geodesic dome assembly.

The latter was something I was more experienced with, thanks to my background in architectural design. I have 3D printed the nods and instead of buying simple tubes or rods for struts, I have designed press fit linear elements. Considering the circutry passing through the struts, I was in need of a system that would enable me to interact with the electronic parts when needed, without being have to deconstruct the whole thing. This is why the press fit struts were crucial; I was able to snap open/close my struts when necessary.

1 2 3 4IMG_9389

The second part is to figure out how to get intake an audio file, amplify it and send it to the bone conductor. At this point, I have followed this example I found online, however unfortunately the most crucial part, bone conduction transducer, was out of stock. Then, I decided to use a piezo crystal which would theoretically do the same job. However it was hard to find a piezo pad that accomodated the same properties as the bone conductor -still, it was working.


Current state: I have managed to assemble the dome in 1:1 scale and got the bone conduction working.



Preparations for the second prototype:

Struts: The black cardboard works but neither it is structurally very reliable nor I am assured that the press fit joints will be like the first day’s after multiple buckling/unbuckling. Thus, I decided on using thick polypropylene sheets and have them waterjet cut in the same matter that I have lasercutted the cardboard.

Nods: 3D printed nods seem to work for the upper part (as long as their shell number is above 4: tension and compression is always stresses the surface) however I don’t think they are strong enough to carry a person’s weight. Therefore, I am in search of a different type of jointry for the sitting elements that will be made of aliminum. I have already experimented casting metal (babitt), which is surely faster than 3D printing each element. However, creating a mold for such an intricate shell geometry is quite tricky.

9 10

Circuitry: I have already started designing my own amplifier.



and found an alternative transducer than the piezo crystals.

I hope to get these put together for the second prototype presentation.

Teleportative painting

(assignment3:thing from the future)


During our ‘thing from the future’ discussions last week, Joy mentioned to a painting into which one can physically enter. I thought, today having such an object from the future would help us have a sneak peek into futuristic cities in order to foresee future problems and take more efficient precautions!

Music pavilion for the hearing impaired

(assignment1:final project)
The aim of this project isn’t necessarily, as the prescriptive name might suggest, to come up with a novel architectural device that will sweep away all the biologic hearing obstacles while listening to music; but rather to create a more egalitarian spatial as well as social configuration –with the help of technology- where both hearing and non/limited hearing audience can enjoy music together!



A lightweight geodesic dome frequency:2, radius:4m will be the main structure.
The dome will have microphones at its nods which will capture the music being created underneath the dome by the sound source and transmit the recording in real-time into each listener’s helmet that is the extention of the structure. Bone conduction technology will be the recipent at these helmets and will transform it into vibrations to be sent to cocleas of the participants. The structure will form a sitting element as well.

Radial scenery on the whole will re-evoke the phenomenon of connectedness in a circle whose meditative emphasis has been present in human’s shared exitential reality since the antiquity.

Bone Conduction

There are two ways for humans to perceive the surrounding sound.

1. Air conduction

Soundwaves hit and vibrate the ear drum in the outer ear, this mechanic force is being transferred to coclea in the inner ear, after being amplified via small bones in the middle ear. The liquid that populates coclea converts these mechanic impacts to neural signals to be transferred to brain.

2. Bone conduction

Soundwaves that reach to the human skull vibrates the x bones. These bones are directly connected to coclea where these vibrations are converted into mechano-neural forces and send to the brain.

Similarities: In both methods, the way sound in form of vibration being processed in the coclea is the same. To be able to benefit from both means, one needs a functioning coclea and audio-neural system.

Differences: Soundwaves intaken via bone conduction bypasses outer and middle ear by directly reaching to coclea. In case of an hearing impariment originating in these parts of the ear, bone conduction might provide perfect hearing.

Hearing loss

Wearable sound pavillion will be efficient in case of conductive hearing loss since nerve-related hearing loss requires further biologic investigation and cannot be solved with mere electro-mechanic interventions.

Conductive hearing loss: Stems from problems with the ear canal, ear drum or middle ear and its little bones
Sensorineural hearing loss: hearing loss due to problems of the inner ear

Geodesic dome

Structural system developed by the American architect Buchminster Fuller around 1970s.
Structural intengrity and strenght as well as modular nature of such a system serve my purposes of disassembly and lightness.