Introduction

The following speculative projects were created to stimulate students into
designing with the tools and ideas of future technology. The overall puzzle is:
what is the driving force: technology or applications?

Video Game for the Blind


Assumption: The visual channel is central for successful entertainment
applications of media technology.



Design an interactive "Videogame" experience for blind people.
Identify ways to initially capture players attention (so they feed money into
the slot). Explain how your design keeps the players attention, avoids boredom
and encourages them to keep feeding coins in the slot.

A Truly Lasting Electronic Musical Instrument.


Assumption: Electronic musical instruments will always have a short market
life (of a few years) before new models eclipse the old.



This century's mastery of metal, plastic, sand (silicon chips) and computational
abstraction (software and simulation) has been applied to create many wonderful
new musical instruments. Like many other products of our time, customers have
developed an appetite for novelty in the form of new sounds and packaging.
Ironically, this need for novelty works against any electronic musical
instrument lasting the many centuries that successful traditional instruments
do. For a community of composers and performers to rally around an instrument,
they must know that it will be around for more than a just a few years.



Design what will become the first lasting digital musical instrument. Decide
whether it will have a user interface like a piano, a guitar, a monophonic
instrument such as the saxophone, or something completely new. What will the
instrument sound like? How will it be controlled? Why will the design last
hundreds of years? What distinguishes it from conventional instruments?

A Disposable Audio Recorder


Assumption: customers need to own their own equipment and medium to record
and store sound and visual materials.



One result of technology of mass production is functionality from products which
cost practically nothing to manufacture. One example of this is the disposable
or "single use" still camera. Interestingly disposable cameras are
neither thrown away nor are they used only once. Their parts are reused.



Design a portable, disposable audio recorder. What would people use one for?
Identify the key technologies needed to pull this off. Does the audio have to be
stored in the device? Do current technologies simply need to be cheap enough or
are new technologies needed ? How many years will it be before this is possible?
Will a disposable camcorder be possible?

3d Direct Manipulation Sound Post Production


Assumption: People will always be satisfied with cartoon-like two
dimensional superposition of sound tracks.



Sounds combine in rich ways in three dimensional space. What are the
technological difficulties that prevent us from combining sounds in the studio
the way they are in the real world? Design the user interface to a 3d sound
post production facility. Identify the primary elements to be manipulated, their
3d graphical representations and how users interact with them. Who would use
such a facility?

Media Free Music and Video Stores


Assumption: People need to visit stores to pick out music and video.



Develop a business plan for a store which rents music (and/or video) material
over networks rather than requiring customers to pick up physical media from
them. Figure out how much customers are willing to pay for this (Hint: pizza
delivery). How many channels of playback does a store need to stay in business?
What services can a small mom-and-pop store provide that would allow them to
compete with a well integrated chain of stores?

MultiMedia One Man (person!) Band


Assumption: You need huge trucks and a road crew to entertain large
audiences.



Design a one person multimedia road show. Your constraints are severe. You have
to be able to check the gear onto a plane. Sketch the content of the show, how
the performer controls the lighting, visual and audio material. What is the role
of the audience? "The show must go on." How do you make the system
reliable enough? How does this system accommodate for different venues?

The Demise of special purpose hardware for Music Synthesizers


Assumption: To achieve sufficient signal processing performance, music
synthesizers require custom built, special purpose hardware.



The performance available from new general purpose processors such as the R4400,
PowerPC and Pentium makes it possible to implement interesting sound synthesis
algorithms as programs in a high level language. Write a program in your
favorite high level language for additive sound synthesis: A bank of oscillators
is required. Provide control over the amplitude and phase of the sine wave
output of each oscillator. Write a version which is as clear and easy to
understand as possible. Then, if time permits, create the fastest version you
can for a processor you are familiar with.

Auditory "Opera Glasses" for Ultimate Concert Sound


Assumption: You have to use sounds in air to communicate to the
audience



If you have attended a large public gathering or music concert, you will
have noticed several unfortunate results of the fact that the speed of sound in
air is much slower than the speed of light. The main problem is that the
gestures of the performers do not appear synchronized, just as thunder and
lightening do not appear to happen simultaneously. Another effect delayed sounds
have is feedback or howling.



Explore the idea of handing out headphones to everybody in the audience, to
provide sound. What features could these headphones provide other than higher
quality correctly synchronized sounds? What features are needed to provide the
best of home listening and the concert experience?

Distance Music Education


Assumption: Your music teacher needs to be in the same room with you.



Prepare a piano lesson to be given by a famous pianist to enthusiastic students
all over the world. Each student is at home with a special piano with a MIDI
connection, such as the Yamaha Disklavier. Key presses from the student can be
transmitted to the teacher. The teachers gestures are broadcast to the students
piano's? How will the students learn fingerings? How can the teacher prepare
exercises adapted to the individual needs of students?

The Merging of Audio and Video


Assumption: The market for films and video is different to that for records.
Each requires its own products, artists and stores.



It used to be simple: Video's were rented from video stores and CD's were bought
from record stores. Now record store chains such as Tower rent movies and video
stores rent music video's. Successful video clips on MTV help sell recorded
music. It used to be that the physical media for film and video was different
from those for audio. Now compressed video and high quality still images
(Photo-CD) are stored on CD's. Digital audio is stored on tape for rotary video
head technology (DAT).



Will the video, film, still photography and audio markets remain distinct or be
swallowed into a single multimedia market? Will there always be a role for audio
only and purely musical expression? What effect will multimedia technology have
on future music?

The Demise of Print, TV and Radio


Assumption: The major reason traditional print media, TV and Radio hold
their own against the onslaught of interactive digital media is that they look
and sound better.



Identify what characterizes high audio quality (production value). Is there
anything inherent in the technological infrastructure (broadcast, mass
distribution?) that gives traditional media an unbeatable advantage over
interactive digital media? If you think they will always coexist explain what
influence they will have on each other. Otherwise when do you think will be the
doomsday for traditional media.

The Demise of All Media


Assumption: Now that we have reproducing media, they are here to stay.



The reproducing media (books, faxes, CD's, video) may represent a temporary
enthusiasm in world history. The problem they address is to amplify individual
expression to an audience which is distant in space and time. Describe how large
scale telepresence technology can address this need more effectively than
reproducing media. Hint: Calculate how many performers do you need to have so
that an individual can find a live performance of any play of Shakespeare in any
language at any time of day or night. Will there be an underprivileged class
without access? What will be the most successful services offered by
telepresence?