Controlling Musical Ambience with a Tangible Device

AmbiDice is an easy to use, light-weight, tangible music controller – a 12-sided dice. Rolling or deliberately rotating the die changes the music to be played by a remote device. Typical devices are smartphones and computers. The music may be a selection from a predefined tracklist or realtime algorithmically composed and synthesized music.

The AmbiDice controller, i.e. the die,  consists of two separate parts: the dice with its built-in electronics and a Java-based server. Data acquisition is based on an ESP8266 microcontroller that is Arduino/C++ compatible and has WiFi functionality on board. In order to detect the upwards facing side of the dice, an accelerometer connected via I2C is used.

The user can connect to a WiFi access point that the dice provides. The raw sensor values are then transmitted to all connected clients as broadcast UDP packets. These messages are received by the server software on the connected computers which then calculate the correct orientation. Once the upward pointing face is determined, the corresponding methods in the AmbientMusicBox music generator are executed. For the sound synthesis and sequencing AmientMusicBox utilizes Phil Burk’s JSyn engine.

A typical usecase of AmbiDice is addressed in the corresponding publication: board gaming and tabletop role-playing games.

  • AmbiDice: An Ambient Music Interface for Tabletop Role-Playing Games
    A. Berndt, S. Waloschek, A. Hadjakos, and A. Leemhuis
    in Proc. of New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) 2017, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2017.

    author = {Berndt, A. and Waloschek, S. and Hadjakos, A. and Leemhuis, A.},
    title = {{AmbiDice: An Ambient Music Interface for Tabletop Role-Playing Games}},
    booktitle = {{Proc. of New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) 2017}},
    year = {2017},
    publisher = {Aalborg University Copenhagen},
    address = {Copenhagen, Denmark},
    month = {May}