M.E.S.I, or musical exploration with shape instruments, is a toy developed as a part of a physical computing course. The goal of M.E.S.I. was to allow kids to explore both music and math concepts like combinations. Additionally, it was important that we developed a system that would allow kids to share and collaborate with others.

Photo Sensors


Toy Investigation
An integral part of our design process was to visit local toy stores and learn more about the types of toys that they stock and explore their materials, form, and function. After our trip, we were inspired to create a toy that was interactive, durable, and whimsical.

After visiting the toy store, we identified key concepts for our design and ideas about the functionality of the system we were building.

My team and I all collaborated on all parts of the construction process. We ultimately made MESI using cardboard, foam mesh, and fabric (in addition to the electronic components).

Final Design
When finished, M.E.S.I. was comprised of a large, soft board, 9 embedded photosensors, and 3 speakers. The photosensors detect when hands or objects move over the board. As different combinations of sensors are covered, the board produces notes through the speakers. Up to 3 notes could be played at once, making it possible to create harmonies and encouraging kids to share the experience of playing music with their friends.

Another key component of this design is that it is durable and easy to clean. The soft outer layer of the board can be easily removed and washed.

In future iterations, smaller microcontrollers could be embedded in the board, eliminating all of the external wires and electronics.