Radioball is a simple-to-use radio that encourages spatial exploration; the non-traditional form of content navigation inspires playful and social interaction. Users find stations as they 'roll' through the FM dial, a discovery experience often lost in modern digital interactions.
Radioball was originally a hack, a way to create a tangible interface. The idea of creating a device without any buttons, screens or recognizable interface was a great challenge. Looking at the media coverage of this study, people seemed to agree with us that touch screens are not the ultimate way to interact with a product.
Exploring other ways to interact with common electronic product today is infinite. The amount of tools, sensors, and material we have at our disposal to create more poetic and more human ways to interact with our everyday surrounding is vast. The beauty of the Radioball is to use those tools, but abstract them away so that the user doesn't have to think about the amount of electronics inside—they just think about how fun it is to interact with it.Â Based on this observation we are developing parallel ideas and derivative products that could be marketable.
If you look at people today they assume they should immediately understand how a product works. We rarely even have time to read the fine lines or the "how to" of a product; if it works then great if it doesn't then the product is probably poorly designed, and we totally agree with this spirit. If you create a new way to interact with a product and you ask people to learn how to use it, it needs to bring something essential, something magical, or the user will get confused and bored, and they are likely to jump to another product right away.
Core77: How did you learn that you had been recognized by the jury?
As Core77 is a daily read for us, we were just browsing the site and found the list of winners. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the Radioball was featured as a Core77 Awards Notable.
What did you learn during the development of your project?
It's been great to see the physical response that people had to randomness. In the super fast, super polished world that we live in, there is no more room for randomness or dirtiness -- everything needs to be HD, super easily accessible, and precise. Part of the Radioball's success came from using a medium that everybody knows and that is on the edge of being old-school (such as the dial radio). Today crisp, clear HD satellite radio and internet radio is taking over—very soon the FM band will be part of our memories.
There is something interesting in those analog memories—fussiness, imprecision, randomness, discovery, memories—that we are delighted and fascinated by. Radioball was never intended to be a marketable product, even though a lot of people have asked us how much it costs or where they could buy it. But Radioball has definitely been a root behind a couple other projects that will hit the market in a near future or that are still in development. Tangible and spacial interfaces, bringing memories into interaction, and leaving room for randomness are important and not going anywhere soon.
The tool you are using to achieve a task should please you as much as the result will.
What was the eureka moment for your project?
The eureka moment was when we met again after discussing the idea of a 3D faceted radio interface, and quickly moved from a quick sketch on paper and a quick sketch in 3D to discovering that this was actually possible. More than just being possible, the Radioball was actually fun and exciting. Using just a handful of wires, an accelerometer, an arduino, and an FM transmitter the device sprang to life. It captivated us and kept us imagining, trying, and creating for quite a while—making Radioball real was not the end of the design process, it was the process.
On this project everything went from "what if?" to "hell yeah, it's working!" or "it's working, but what if..."
Making physical prototypes informed most of our design decisions. From the number of facets on the ball for the stability or the cleanliness of the way the ball was rolling; from the sound resonance inside the central structure to the durometer of the outside shell; and from the necessary speed of twisting to changing the volume. Every step was a necessary physical exploration and every exploration was an ah-ha moment. To this day we are still evolving and twisting things here and there, but the lesson we learned was really about "thinking by making."