The Andantephone: Stepping-through music from Steve Mann on Vimeo.

A highly expressive musical instrument you play by simply walking on it

See The Toronto Star, Thursday, March 11, 2010,
"Playing the pipe organ: it's now as easy as walkin", By: John Terauds Classical Music Critic, Published on Thu Mar 11 2010

  1. Invention title: Andantephone.
    This is a new word coined by S. Mann, derived from the musical term "andante" which means "at a walking pace", and the Greek suffix "phone" ("φωνο") which means "sound".
  2. Summary explanation -- how it works:
    In one embodiment, seismic sensors buried in the ground pick up the vibrations of footsteps walking on the ground and turn those subsonic sounds into beautiful music while maintaining all the subtle expressive qualties and nuance of each footstep. In another embodiment, sensor pads are available for being laid out on any surface such as a floor or deck. In another embodiment, tiles or patio stones are supplied that have the sensors embedded in them. In another embodiment, the sensors are installed in "smart shoes" and you play the instrument by walking while wearing the special shoes. In another embodiment the instrument is built into skates. Playing the instrument is highly expressive, e.g. you can change the sound of a note by hitting your foot on the ground (sounds like a piano note) versus dragging or sliding your foot (to sound like a violin bowed instrument), versus hitting AND dragging (to sound like a "pianolin", i.e. violin and piano together). Yet it is super easy to play and even a baby can play it by crawling around. To play the adantephone you simply walk on it (or crawl on it, or stomp or drag your feet on it == each of these making a different sound but playing the song perfectly).

    Unlike other instruments like the piano or organ, where the keys are arranged in order of pitch from lowest on the left to highest on the right, imagine you re-arrange the piano keys in the order of time time at which you play them in a particular song. The leftmost key is the note that occurs first in the song. The second key is the note that occurs second in the song, and so on. Obviously some keys on the piano will repeat, e.g. if the song starts on "C" then the first key on the piano will be "C", and if there are other occurences of "C" in the song, then other keys on the piano will also play "C". To play the song on the piano, you simply press the keys in order from left-to-right. If you want to play a different song, you simply select (download) it, and the piano reconfigures itself in the new order prescribed by the new song. Now imagine this concept transferred to a piano that you walk on! Here is a fanciful drawing that helps illustrate this new inventive concept:
    (click for full reslution version).
    You can imagine yourself walking or running or dancing or crawling along the ground with a paper tape or rope tied to your waist, and you're in some sense pulling this virtual or imaginary rope or tape through an orchestrion or player-piano. As you walk faster the song plays faster. As you slow down the song slows down, and if you stop, the song stops. But unlike the orchestrion or player-piano, the sound is not mechanical, because the sound ALSO changes depending on HOW you step or stomp or drag your feet. Every note you play is played with a degree of expressive quality much like a violin (or strings ensemble), and your feet (or hands) are the bow(s).

    Now, for the first time in human history, anyone can play a whole orchestra with a highly individualized and expressive creativity that is the opposite of the mechanically tegical sound of other easy-play user-interfaces.

  3. Example commercial applications: Church groups can load the hymn book into the andantephone, and then audience members (participants) can be selected to play individual hymns on the pipe organ. An audience member with no musical training can play the pipe organ perfectly well, with a highly expressive individual style and finesse. See a video example here. This converts the pipe organ into a step-on foot-operated keys along a path at the front of the church.

    The invention has a proven appeal in children's playgrounds and day-care centres, child-care centres, public parks, beaches, campgrounds, and the like.

    Theme parks can use the invention so that when guests arrive, the guests unwittingly play the theme song as they walk into the park.

    Shoemakers can add highly expressive music to their shoes.

    Olympic figure skaters can add highly exprssive musical instruments to their skates (example video).

    Ski makers and toboggan makers and snowboard makers can create violin-like instruments that play on the actual sounds made by scraping snow. Since there are a wide variety of sounds that can be made by scraping snow, the instrument will be highly expressive and can be played by people with no musical background, as well as satisfy musical experts with its capacity to express nuances and fine musical variation.

    Runners use the invention to let their music keep pace with them, rather than them keeping pace with their music.

    There is a very large market for the product, as there are a large number of people that like and listen to music, but a smaller number skilled at playing instruments. Also even those skilled at playing instruments enjoy the fact that the andantephone can be played while doing other things like walking, jogging, skating, skiing, or even sawing through wood (the andantephone can be built into a saw so that it sounds like and works like a violin bow while sawing through wood, for example).

    The instrument is also useful for rehabilitation and special needs, e.g. as with the related instrument, hydraulophone, used by the CNIB to help with rehabilitation of blind and deafblind children using touch and fine-motor skills.

    As a musical instrument for the deaf, it also has many possibilities, because the ground pads or foot sensors can work both ways to both sense and stimulate the foot, and therefore function as a tactual aid.

  4. Links to publications associated with the invention:
    Watershapes (non-technical magazine) article
    Nessie the Hydraulophone: A Water-Driven Musical Object for Children,
  5. Technical papers:
    ACM Multimedia 2006;
    ACM Multimedia 2010;
    •The andentephone uses another of the "Mannventions", Scratch Input.
  6. Patent applications filed or issued: US20090288545, and other related patent filings. A number of exciting recent new developments are also in the works, related to this invention, with a large portfolio of patentable subject matter.
  7. Prototypes constructed: A number of prototypes have been constructed and are still in working order, and can be demonstrated at at S. Mann's home, or brought to a nearby location.
  8. Further notes: I recommend that Ryan Janzen be brought into the team working on this invention. He did quite a bit of work with this invention, and is the world's leading music composer for andantephone, and also an expert on the enginering and techinical details of building andantephones. Ryan is completing his PhD and will be done at about the right time to assume a role in the company. C. Aimone may also be brought in tactically as a consultant, but is presently the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) Interaxon, one of our other startups, (located nearby in Toronto downtown), so his time needs to be drawn on only tactically.

    Another musical instrument invention is the hydraulophone.

Here is a brief biography on the inventor, Steve Mann; and also Wikipedia has more info on inventor S. Mann.

"Mannventions" ... Return to a list of some of Steve Mann inventions