Transforming Modalities

Physical Computing

Why did I do this?

The achritectural language often uses the notion of 'transforming space'. It is interesting to understand design not as a process of creation, but of a transforming activity. I followed this common architectural thinking and present two simple transformative examples in physical computing. The approach was to take one sub-modality and transform it to another.

Sound Beam

What do we transform?

Light into tune (in realtime and through pre-production).

Used actuators and sensors

1.5V LED, LDR or solar cell, headphones

The concept

We connect a 5-9V power supply in row with a solar cell (or LDR) and a speaker. When the light intensity on the solar cell changes it modulates the signal present on the speaker. The effect is the following:


The Sound Beam concept is a neat technical solution that has aesthetical qualities, perception wise and in terms of technological simplicity. The concept is used in a variety of applications like wireless headphones, remote controlled toys, TV remote, etc. However, usually these technologies use infra red lighting to transmit the signals, hiding the cause from our senses. By making the source visible, a surprising effect is generated that make some people ask themselves: "Why does that light make sound?" While this is not a new phenomena for technologists, this might be unnerving for the non-technologist, because the cause is perceived as having effects for vision, but not for audio. This confusion is fun to play with. Extending this: You can also easily mix multiple PWM modulated Sound Beams on one solar cell.

Further ideas

Sound Throwies, Light Drops, Light DJing, Laser Sound

Piezo Tapper

What do we transform?

Transforming pressure into light.

Used actuators and sensors

Piezo speaker, 1.5V LED


The piezo electric effect is quite an interesting one. Voltage applied to a piezoelectrical material (mostly ceramics) warps it. This is commonly used in piezo speakers. In return the same effect works the other way around. Deforming the material generates voltageand can be even used to light up a LED, like the video is showing.

Further ideas

Piezos are widely used for actuation, e.g. for generating sound, precision positioning, energy harvesting, etc.


Technologies used:
Solar cell
Piezo speaker