Andrew Hill & Mike Williams
Road Jam is a mobile installation constructed and performed inside of a car. The goal of this installation was to both solve the boredom of long car rides and look into increasing the interactions possible between the front and back seats of a vehicle. To solve these problems, we constructed a 4-seat music performance system in which the drivers and passengers of the car work together to make music to listen to during the ride.
Each seat contains an instrument with which a player may create or modify the music of the car with.
The driver’s seat has two buttons mounted on the dash just past the steering wheel directly in front of the driver. These two buttons are mapped to a kick drum and a snare drum sound from a sampled drum set.
The front seat passenger has the DJ instrument which has 8 pads to hit and 8 rotary faders to twist. The pads at this station do a variety of things including muting and unmuting parts of songs, switching between two different song styles, and master muting all sound being made. The rotary faders modify the total sound in a number of ways including song tempo, reverb, phaser, chopping FX, and more.
In the seat behind the front passenger is the keyboard instrument. This instrument makes the sound of a Rhodes piano.
Behind the driver's seat is the seat with a bass guitar instrument. This bass guitar is a smaller bodied U-Bass style guitar with a pickup inside of it.
All of these instruments are connected to a main laptop in the trunk of the car that is running the music program Ableton Live.
Our first full test of this system with four guests playing gave us interesting results. Due to a failing of the keyboard instrument’s USB jack, the keyboard shorted out the USB hub we were using, taking a lot of the instruments offline. This caused the installation to come to a standstill as we troubleshooted the system to get it back online.
The second full test was a bit later, we got everything back online and grabbed a smaller group of friends to try out Road Jam. This test matched our expectations for what the installation should do with every instrument working properly and the players being able to create music in the car.
After the tests were over and after collecting the results, we started to realize the implications of Road Jam. This installation is about increasing the interaction between passengers, creating, and is solved with new and old technologies. Using our music backgrounds, we created a solution that was music-focused, but this sort of system (with some modifications to the “instruments”) could be applied to a variety of creation or modification interactive scenarios.
Imagine a 4-Player trivia game where each passenger seat now gets a button to answer with. There could be a program running to ask questions through the speakers and microphones to get answers from each passenger depending on who “rings in” first.
Or perhaps a simulator where each seat has a different role to play much like the cockpit of a large jet or ship.
And finally, for those concerned about safety and unable to get past that thought, we are on the verge of self driving cars...
Adding technology to an automobile to increase interactivity between passengers and improve the overall experience is something to look into. Gut reactions to drivers safety need to be put in check as we strive to break traditional thinking of travel and create an experience above that which we are used to.