Beatwalker – Post for Final Presentation

Beatwalker provides the soundtrack of your life through dynamically changing music that responds, in real time, to your movements.


We fantasize about what the soundtrack of our lives would sound like: often times a beautifully crafted orchestra that reflects our daily activities not unlike a film’s musical score. Beatwalker realizes this aspiration for the fraction of the cost of hiring a composer and professional musicians. Through the use of a midi generating synth shield accompanied with the Arduino, a song is created in code with a series of variables that change based on input from the user. If a user speeds up, the song responds and speeds up as well. If they slow down, the song will respond. If a user changes direction, musical instruments will be added or subtracted. The result is a dynamic song that is written by someone walking to work, going for a casual jog, or getting lost and turning every which way on the busy streets of Manhattan. The song becomes personal to that user; that version will only ever be played once.


The bulk of what I’ve learned is the troubles of using a pedometer or accelerometer to count steps. It’s not exactly accurate on a step-by-step basis, and figuring out how to most accurately interpret the data and make it be represented as possible was difficult. On top of that, to then incorporate that always moving tempo into a music composition which is always cycling through and playing is a bit of a feat. The sensors weren’t ideal, nor was the Arduino library to write the music, but I have a working prototype that isn’t perfect, but definitely demonstrates the idea.


The other major takeaway, for myself as a musician, is that it’s a different (and slightly frustrating experience) to write a song using code. I know musicians have written this type of music for a long time, but I haven’t really gotten into it much before. I’m so used to the organic experience of playing a guitar or piano and immediately hearing how it sounds, so it was an adjustment, and it didn’t allow for much experimentation as I can’t get that real time feedback if what I’m trying works or not. It has deterred me from working more in this medium, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the same love for this music making process.


Updated System Diagram:




Updated BOM:



Updated Timeline:

Nov. 6 – Nov. 10 – Wait for parts – Synth shield is crucial for testing

Nov. 7 – Nov.10 – Begin figuring out how to get steps to Arduino

Nov. 10 – Nov. 20 – Decide to leave to L.A. to help my brother.

Nov. 20 – Nov. 23 – Return home from L.A., stress about everything, learn about the synth shield

Nov. 23 – Dec. 4 – Calibrate sensors, refine, write a test song, put on the body

Dec. 4 – Dec. 11 – Based on user testing day, work extensively on step counting and implementation into music. Refine song to make it better.


User Studies:


1) What sensation are you getting when you put it on?

Catherine immediately feels that the music is responsive. She enjoys the experience, but was the quickest to pick up on the music being delayed or inaccurate to specific walking pace. She thought I should explore other sensors that would be more accurate.

2) How do you expect the interaction to begin?

Catherine thinks the stepping should start the music.

3) Do you wish it would play off of other movements more? Without being more intrusive.

No it’s fine if it was just a bit more accurate.

4) Was the volume OK?




1) What sensation are you getting when you put it on?

More than Catherine, Hugo liked the responsiveness and felt that his movements were influencing the music.

2) How do you expect the interaction to begin?

By pressing play.

3) Do you wish it would play off of other movements more? Without being more intrusive.

He likes the simplicity…direction and steps, and doesn’t want it to be more complicated.

4) Was the volume OK?



1) What sensation are you getting when you put it on?

She noticed it being responsive and thought it was really neat, though she could tell it was delayed to get to your beat, and she had to work to get it consistent.

2) How do you expect the interaction to begin?

With the first step.

3) Do you wish it would play off of other movements more? Without being more intrusive.

No, she’s fine with it as is (though, if it could work a bit better, awesome). She did think the music could intensify as it went on.

4) Was the volume OK?

Yep, but a volume control would be nice.



(Coming soon, technical documentation and video).


  • Arlene says:

    Hi Shaun, great documentation— I appreciate that all your work, both in class and online, has been on-time, complete, and thorough. I look forward to the technical documentation and the video!

    You introduced your presentation today by saying that your project hasn’t changed much since session 11. As I mentioned to you, the refinements you implemented– the accelerometer, the averaging algorithm, and the music of course– made a huge difference in coupling the beats to the walking–a true beatwalker. These subtle points really makes a difference in developing an engaging, iterative series of interactions. I thought that your implementation might act only as a proxy for the phone implementation, but it’s clear the device can stand on its own. I’m glad to see that you worked with a “performer” to demonstrate your work– one lesson you probably learned from today is that demos, even for solo projects, are much easier when you don’t have to shoulder them alone, and you have a built-in tester/collaborator as well. The way you contextualized the project using Family Guy was also very effective, particularly as it showed a progressive build of music as he walked through town. Speaking of evolution, the progressive build of the music makes your project engaging over a long period of time, which is great in terms of motivating the user and sustaining engagement. It will be great to see you implement additional modes of interaction to take this project into the realm of something a user will engage with over days, weeks, months, years.

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