Silophon // First Steps

comment 1
Physical Computing


By Louis Minsky and Dalit Shalom
Project idea

To design a soft toy / musical instrument that is physically silent but generates sound digitally.


It is well known that some people on the spectrum of Autism are hypersensitive to sound. The characteristic of wanting full control can be very frustrating when it comes to situations with sound where often there is no control. Traumatic experiences with sounds as a child could evidently lead to not wanting to engage with music and sound as an adult. We believe that by creating an instrument/toy that will allow the child to control sound, combined with an engaging level of user experience may help break the potential friction between hypersensitive children with Autism and sound.

Some links we found:

  • Xylophone = Silophon
  • Felt
  • Additional materials (explore soft conductive options)
  • Fabrication

Here’s a circuit Louis built on Fritzing:

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 3.13.21 PM

User Experience
  • Fun
  • In control
  • Appealing and engaging
Questions and Thoughts
  • Should this be a one-on-one experience (earphones) or a surrounding sound experience (speakers)?
  • Should the object be something you hold and grasp or is it placed on a surface?
  • If we use felt as an exterior what material is optimal for using as a base to wrap the felt around (i.e. plexiglass / plywood / blue foam / others)?
  • Hiding wires and making the object as lightweight as possible
  • “Magical” experience
  • Size and scale: remember the audience is children, make sure they can grasp the instruments well and access freely.
  • Visual representation for the sound (?)
People to meet outside of class

Over the next few weeks we will try to meet with:

  • Dr Anita Perr from Poly who is my professor in the Developing Assistive Technology course
  • Kristie Koenig,┬áChair of OT at Steinhardt and an expert in working with people with autism
  • Christie Leece, also a teacher of mine in Developing Assistive Technology
  • Michelle Temple, research resident, much experience with designing for assistive technology


This project will be dedicated in loving memory of my friend Nadav Shoham who was recently killed in the vicious snowstorm along the Annapurna trek in Nepal just a few weeks ago.

Nadav was a talented engineer who dedicated every spare moment of his to volunteering with children having special needs, including handicapped children, deaf children and children with autism.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *