Abbey Road Hackathon 2018

By November 21, 2018Uncategorized

On 10-11 November the world famous Abbey Road Studios hosted its first ever Hackathon, bringing together a community of engineers, artists, producers and academics…and Frazer from Teaboy Games. The event invited creative technology pioneers to explore some of the questions facing the future of the music industry, and we had just 24hrs to create our very own ‘hack’ in response.

Copyright Abbey Road Studios 2018

As we filed into the famous Studio 1, having dodged the taxi-driver-infuriating queue of tourists lined up by zebra crossing outside, its hard not to feel intimated by the sheer scale of the space and the artists who have graced the space beforehand.

Aside from being the Creative Director at Teaboy Games, I’m also an Education Coordinator at Signals, a creative digital learning charity in Colchester. Its here I teach a variety of digital creative subjects including video game making, physical computing and music technology. This love of playful technology was shared amongst the team I found myself with, and we set about creating a physical experience (rather than a software one) and were keen to explore what “game design” ideas we could apply to CHIRP, a wireless communication technology for exchanging data between nearby devices via sound.

The lead slide from our final presentation, made at 3am in the morning having given up on trying to sleep!

After 24hrs in Studio 1, including about an hours sleep on the 87yr old floor, we presented our creation “Sonic Breadcrumbs”, a choose-your-own-adventure rooted in the physical world. Our hack used CHIRP emitters and a mobile web client which listened for the CHIRPs to move through a decision tree narrative. Think of it as a cross between geocaching and an “escape the room” experience, but all done via audio cues (facilitated with a text to speech integration).

“[Sonic Breadcrumbs] is a lovely use of audio to detect spatial locality, which could be just at home in a museum or gallery as an enhanced location-aware audio tour.” – Daniel Jones, CTO at Chirp

We envisage this technology being perfect for immersive theatre experiences, tourist trails or treasure hunt games – with the CHIRP emitters embedded into props or costumes, delivering instructions or narrative to your device based on your location – all without needing an internet connection, just a device with a speaker and a microphone. Needless to say we intend to keep developer the idea further as the possible implementations are exciting.

From L to R: Valentin Bauer, Tom Kaplan, Frazer Merrick, Matt Timmermans

The whole Abbey Road Hackathon event was incredibly inspiring, with the other attendees creating projects such as an AI-powered rap-battle opponent that listens to your freestyles then responds with a punchline, a mobile app for people to jam together on their own phones, a VR/AR synthesizer where you make music by kicking objects in the virtual space, and even an additive synthesiser effect created by the audience pressing vegetables on their screens!

Interested in the crossover between music and technology? Here are a serious of upcoming events you may be interested in:

Noise=Noise @ Manor Ballroom, Ipswich. Saturday 1st December, 18:00 – 00:00, £5

Experimental music/noise night featuring diy punk electronics, music from gameboys and lots of noise.

Hackcoustic Christmas Party, IKLECTIK London. Saturday 15th December, 19:30 – 22:30, £10

Featuring Graham Dunning and Sam Underwood demoing their Mammoth Beat Machine (a cross between a drum sequencer and a fairground organ), Ales Alessia Milo’s Aural Fabric interactive textile map of Greenwich and Andrew Hockey premiering his brand new and interactive Water Bowl Piano.

CLIP @ Firstsite, Colchester. Every Monday, 5 – 8pm, FREE

A weekly meet-up for anyone interested in music and sound where you can play with synths, microphones and musical tech. No experience or equipment required, just a love of music and sound. Open to all ages 14 and up.