“Youre Dealing With The Thing From The Future That Does Not Behave As It Should”

Edition vc.ru talked to a theatrical producer Sasha Pas and curator of the educational program of the Moscow Strelka Institute Andrew Maniko that created the device for custom training music — Playtron. You can connect any objects that conduct electricity, and touching them is to extract the sounds using the web application. The authors talked about the difficulties that arose when creating the product and also about the prospects of technology development at the interface between it, education and the arts. In 2013, the Moscow theatre producer Sasha Pas have graduated from the masters in Spain. There he became acquainted with the project of the University Pompeu Fabra in the field of music education — Music Technology Group, in which students created works at the interface between it and music.

In addition, he visited the international music festival Sonar, which presented an interactive audiovisual entertainment activities for children and adults. “I found it very interesting task to do something similar for the younger generation and, in fact, began searching for technology,” says Paz. Pas drew attention to the product of two engineers from MIT, Jay silver and Eric Rosenbaum.

In 2012 they presented on a crowdfunding platform ickstarter the Makey Makey controller based on Arduino, that allows you to connect your computer to any conductive current items and use them as game controllers. The project has attracted more than $500 million from donors and has been successfully implemented. Together with the curator of the educational program of the Moscow Strelka Institute Andrew Manasco Sasha Pas in 2013 he founded the community Playtronica that brings together the educational project, music band and event Agency. In February 2014, it acquired four Makey Makey Board and started to use them to organize educational and creative workshops, and installations, using the idea of using the device.

“We asked fellow musicians to record a lot of sounds from which you could collect musical composition brought a lot of garbage — boxes, wire, tape. We did not explain anything to people. They intuitively understood and made their own, like no musical instruments. The sounds of some of them could even dance,” says Paz.

It struck me that people who never went to music school, began to ask how to build a song, how to pick up the rhythm. They have a creative passion, motivation. They suddenly realized that music-making can be fun. In parallel Playtronica created installations in collaboration with Russian and international creative teams, using the art elements of it.

In 2015 the festival the Moscow Polytechnic Museum Polytech they turned the plane the Yak-42 in musical instrument, attaching to the fuselage special sensors Mogees, which read vibrations and turned them into sounds, and the musicians by using body shots he created the melody. Having studied the principle of operation of other music hardware devices Pass and Munirka decided to modify them and create their own, focusing on ease of use so that it could handle even a child. “We believe that in the future, all objects will be interactive.

But now, we talk about it at the level of the “Internet of things”. Its pretty boring because of the scenario of “Internet of things” no. So instead of having to come up with useful interactive gadgets, we realized that this great game and the collision of two realities. The future and the present,” says Andrew Manasco.

Investing in the project of 500 thousand roubles from personal means, they have created a Playtron — playing musical device that allows users to create their own musical composition using as instruments any items which pass the current. “It uses the principle of comprometimento. Any object that can conduct slightly small and not dangerous for human current, in our context can serve as a musical instrument. That is, to extract a note or sample,” says Sasha Pas.

Your own web application Playtron uses the Google Chrome API to synthesize and play the sound in the browser. “Our goal was to minimize the steps for using the device. You get it from the box, insert into computer, open a website and you dont need to install, configure, select — everything works,” says Manasco. For the development of equipment Playtron took about two years.

Having no experience in creating hardware products, Munirka and Pas had to find an engineer. “We are very fortunate that we found an expert who was involved in musical devices. It was his hobby, and he worked before in a munitions factory,” recalls Munirka.

According to founders, the work was complicated by the lack of free time, and a permanent source of Finance — in parallel, they engaged in work within the community Playtronica and invested the earned money in development of the device. Investments have been uneven and irregular, as the income of the projects, members of the community were dependent on seasonality. “In Russia, creating not so much new devices. Those that appear the same Yotaphone, are based on existing platforms. And here is a technological invention.

We also wanted to make it beautiful, so the combination of engineering cost and design — its completely non-obvious process, and it requires adaptation,” he continues Munirka. The device is produced in Zelenograd factory “Rezonit”, founded by graduates of the Moscow Institute of electronic technology. By the end of 2016, the co-founders produced the first test batch of ready devices — 100 pieces, which were sold during the month.

“We had some problems with the assessment deadlines of everything that happens. Also and delivery details, because most of the small parts come from China and not everything is available in Russia. Therefore, establishing good communication with suppliers was also a new experience,” said Manasco. On the website developers kit Playtron (fee, and a set of sensors) is 4,5 thousand rubles.

One of the first owners of the device was a boy named Kesha, with whom the co-founders Playtronic met four years ago on one of the first workshops. In the educational workshops of Pas and Munirka use a holistic approach where the student receives knowledge about the world within the same narrow discipline, like mathematics or physics, and comprehensively, for example at the junction of science and art. “It is sometimes called “360 degree approach” — we used to look at something from one angle, from another and the third, a holistic approach is still an attempt to look from all sides.

If it is music education, then we see this side of painting, from the physics side of physical education, mathematics,” says Paz. The purpose of the co-founders to create “the format of the new education” and introduce it into the public education system. A few years ago they made such an attempt, however, has faced difficulties integrating the holistic podhoda into existing curricula.

“In the end we decided that we will promote the project in some small schools, private schools, schools associated with programming, and yet will not be implemented in the state system,” says Paz. However, in the fall of 2016, the leadership of the Moscow school №554 Playtronica has met and agreed to conduct joint projects. “Before, when we tried, there were people who believed in us, but mostly its all cold perceived. But we had to spend a couple of master classes in the open class, we were immediately contacted and asked to repeat it,” explains Paz.

“When the children touch the object, it suddenly begins to sound, they are surprised. You are faced with a gap of reality, the thing from the future that does not behave as it should. So for kids especially for little ones who are already used to the iPad, and suddenly touched a thing, and it behaves like a digital — to them it is a big surprise”.

To monetize the product co-founders plan on using three channels: online sales, retail and direct sales at events. “We are now in the retail network, for example in shops “Republic”. I hope to expand sales. We also very much focusareas the foreign market, our social media is aimed at the international buyer, and we think theres more chance for us,” explains Andrew Manasco.

Due to the direct sales of the device on free educational events they plan to make their workshops more accessible to a wider audience. “Conducting master class, we will talk about the Playtron, to show how it works, and after wishing the participants will be able to purchase the device. But we wont take money for an educational format,” says Paz. The product is not yet profitable, however, the co-founders were able to “go to zero” and return on their investment.

After the production processes, they are planning every two months to release a new music device. Now they are developing a product that will allow you to play music through skin. “Our business model is built on the fact that if we can iterate and create new products often enough, you will be able to find a particular device or collection of devices, which will be the driver of our business,” says Manasco.

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