UPDATE: LoopLoop wins “Best in Category, Expressing” and “Best in Show” at the inaugural Interaction Design Awards! Read the full press release here.
Our work at Stimulant ranges from massive interactive wall-sized installations to small handheld devices. Our friends at Sifteo gave us an amazing opportunity to work on our smallest device yet.
Designing for “Inch-Scale” Computers
Sifteo cubes, originally featured in 2009 at TED, are sturdy 1.5-inch-square devices with 1-inch screens, not unlike a child’s building block. They have an amazing tactile quality and fit well in hands of all sizes and ages. Sifteo cubes are aware of their own orientation, tilt, direction, and proximity to other Sifteo cubes. A single button is embedded underneath each cube’s 128-pixel-wide screen. They are controlled wirelessly by a nearby computer and come in packs of three (expandable up to six) cubes.
Sifteo asked us to contribute to their launch portfolio of games that focus on kinesthetic learning, spatial reasoning, and collaboration. We whittled dozens of concepts down to a project we’d all love to work on: a multitrack music toy that was more exploratory than goal-based, and would leverage the minimalist and modular nature of the cubes themselves.
Passion, Prototyping and Playtesting
We all love music at Stimulant. Many of us have been DJs or musicians at some point in our lives. Combining this love with our penchant for interactive, playful experiences is part of what makes coming into work so rewarding, so it wasn’t a surprise when we after much deliberation we decided to go down the path of making music.
The design team started prototyping the interaction design while our developers researched the technical constraints and possibilities of the Sifteo cubes themselves. The design began on paper, with lots of little doodles of possible screen states, and talking through the interactions between each Sifteo cube. We even used existing, physical game pieces to playtest the application without writing a line of code, and used even verbal beatboxing in lieu of actual audio output.
Bringing LoopLoop to Life
With the interaction model prototyped on paper, we began the process of laying down the technical framework and exploring our visual and audio design options. Sifteo’s development team was extremely supportive of our efforts, modifying their SDK framework and sharing our passion for what LoopLoop could become.
We opted for a visual style that would mimic the inferred emotional attributes of the Sifteo cubes themselves: cute, minimal, quirky, with surprising complexity revealed over time. This look and feel influenced the sound palette and naming of the application, which is a nod both to the onomatopoeia of the patterns, as well as the nature of how the tracks repeat themselves.
The Stimulant team aggressively stuck to a “less is more” ethic when it came to features, scope, and priorities. We focused on doing fewer things, and doing them better. Iteration and fine-tuning of the technical, interactive, visual, and aural aspects of the project led us towards something that we felt was fun, engaging, and a joy to play with.
The soundtrack for LoopLoop was adapted for use as iPhone ring tones and alert tones. You can download them here and sync them to your device via iTunes.