Tag Archives: bicycles

Sonic Bike Hacklab: Part 1


Time to report on the sonic bike hacklab Kaffe Matthews and I put on in AudRey HQ in Hackney. We had a sunny and stormy week of investigation into sonic bike technology. After producing three installations with sonic bikes, the purpose of the lab was to open the project up to more people with fresh ideas, as well as a chance to engage with the bikes in a more playful research oriented manner without the pressure of an upcoming production.


Each of the three previous installation, in Ghent, Hailuoto island, Finland, and Porto, we’ve used the same technology, a Beagleboard using a GPS module to trigger samples to play back over speakers mounted on the handlebars. The musical score is a map created using Ushahidi consisting of zones tagged with sample names and playback parameters that the bikes carry around with them.


We decided to concentrate on two areas of investigation, using the bike as a musical instrument and finding ways to get the bikes to talk to each other (rather than being identical independent clones). We had a bunch of different components to play with, donated by the participants, Kaffe and I – while the bikes already provided power via 12v batteries, amplification and speakers. We focused on tech we could rapid prototype with minimal fuss.


The next few posts will describe the different experiments we carried out using these components.

The Swamp that was, a bicycle opera

Day one on a new project – with Kaffe Matthews, and a collaboration between FoAM & Timelab, “The Swamp that was” is an opera where bicycles become a way to hear stories of the past in the city of Ghent.

I’m picking up the software side of things from Wolfgang Hauptfleisch, which involves using BeagleBoards – low power self contained open hardware ARM computers, a good follow up to my experiments with the considerably more closed NDS and less general purpose Android.

This is my test BeagleBoard xM in a custom laser cut housing from Timelab.

The “swamp” system is based on lua scripts calling proteaAudio for realtime audio processing. Lua has a tiny footprint and is great as an embedded interpreter (despite indexing from 1 and other minor gripes). Everything seems to be up and running, and I’ve set up a project on gitorious with the sourcecode.

Some random things I’ve learned include: flags to speed up dd copying images to extremely slow usb SD memory cards:

sudo dd if=swamp0-1.img of=/dev/sde oflag=dsync bs=1M count=1024

List ip addresses of devices attached to your local router:

sudo arp-scan --interface=wlan0

I’m using the Ångström distribution on the beagle board, which uses opkg for package management – it took me a long time to figure out the best way to search for packages is simply:

opkg list | grep alsa