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Shake a Sound

Shake a Sound is an interactive exhibit piece designed for the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Teknopolis. The goal of this project was to create an installation that lets the visitors feel as if they are performing. Using web sockets, I created an app that establishes a mobile connection between visitors, allowing them to play music together. When visitors open Shake a Sound, they are prompted to choose an instrument. After choosing an instrument, visitors can play notes and chords by shaking their phone. Everyone using the app is able to hear everyone else playing through the speaker of their phone, therefore creating a digital musical ensemble. As visitors walk around Teknopolis, everyone has an insturment in their hand, contributing their own sounds and rhythms to the music around them.

Skills Demonstrated:

Live Web Development, Mobile Development, Mobile Design, Interaction Design

Technology Used:

HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node.js,, Sketch


The process of designing and developing Shake a Sound began with research and a lot of thought. Something that the Brooklyn Academy of Music specifically asked for was a solution to keeping children of varying ages entertained during the event. I gave myself three focus areas to keep in mind while designing Shake a Sound; first, the visitors should feel like they are performing, second, children should be engaged from the moment that they walk through the door, and third, a sense of community should be built among all visitors, rather than having visitors divided by separate exhibits.

Because I was taking a course in live web applications, I decided to use web sockets to create an exhibit that connects visitors and builds a sense of community. The idea of shaking a phone came from the fun children’s game Bop It, as this worked as a way of turning the phone into an instrument. I created mockups and user case scenarios, such as a young boy at the age of 10 that is bored at Teknopolis. Instead of playing Candy Crush, he is having a great time playing Shake a Sound.

As soon as I had my concept down and research questions answered, I began designing what the user interface should look like and started developing a web socket connection. The user interface of this project was inspired by the changing background color that I had created to test the web socket connection. In the beginning stages of development, I tested the web socket connection by programing the app to change the background color of each screen at random when the phone shakes. Later, I decided to include the visual cue that the changing background gave users by tying each sound to a specific color. I designed the user interface in a way that does not take away from the changing background when the phone shakes, but adds to it.

Designed and developed by Steven Simon 2018