Interactive Radio

Project Type: Product Design

Course: Experimental Form // Professor Mark Baskinger // Fall 2014

The purpose of this project was to design and create an interactive radio that moves past typical UI interactions that involve touch screens, knobs, and buttons. The radio was fabricated through 3D printing, and the functionality was implemented using Arduino.

1. Concept Ideation

I began by sketching a variety of possible concepts. I was particularly interested in exploring wearable technology and gesture-based input.


2. Prototyping & Iteration

We started the process of experimenting with electronics and various forms of controls by creating foam board prototypes.

"Radio in a Week" Project

We hacked apart a basic alarm clock radio and built alternative control mechanism (buttons, switches, sliders, or knobs) into a foam board prototype. The radio is "on" when it's positioned upright, "off" when rolled onto its side, and the top panel slides to control the volume.

Form Prototype

I built a foam board prototype to test the wristband concept that I had sketched above. I wanted to experiment with the idea of transforming the shape from one form to another when in the off (unworn) position versus the on (worn) position. After building the model, I decided that more space would be necessary to fit the electronics, so perhaps a different form would be more appropriate.

Interaction Prototype

Since many of my concepts involved sensing gestures, I built an interactive "proof of concept" prototype to figure out what kind of gestures I could detect using an accelerometer. I wrote a Processing sketch to run on an old Android phone, which graphs accelerometer readings and detects several simple movements in a mock radio simulator. 

3. Product Design & Fabrication

After sketching out a basic circuitry mockup and purchasing parts, I created a 3D CAD model using SolidWorks to design an exterior housing for the parts. I had the main parts 3D printed, and I created mechanical joints using ball bearings, toothpicks, and a screw cap from a plastic jar.

4. Electronics & Arduino

Originally, I designed the radio to have a hand-held wireless controller. This would have its own battery power and would be controlled by a Lilypad Arduino, and would use a transmitter to send data back to the main Arduino UNO controlling the radio. However, due to various complexities that arose as well as my own inexperience, this design proved to be too complex for me to implement. In the end I modified the design to run on a single Arduino UNO, with wires running to the hand-held controller.

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5. Reflection & Lessons Learned

This was my first experience with using Arduino, and I learned a great deal about sensors, circuits, and electrical components through the many mistakes I made along the way. In the end, the wireless design of the hand-held controller pod proved to be beyond my capabilities at this point. However, in the future I would be much more equipped to make smarter decisions when selecting components and configuring circuits.

Conceptual Design:

A wireless hand-held controller pod controls the radio through various gestures.

Actual Implementation:

The wireless design proved to be too complex, and I ended up having to run a cable to the controller pod. Despite the appearance of the cord, this "proof of concept" is fully functional and can be controlled using movement and gestures.