Sonicbells was born thanks to the collaboration between the Royal College of Art, Sonos and Random International studios. We were asked as a team to design an unprecedented experience where sound would be a key factor. There was only one constraint: the experience had to be both physical and digital.
I worked on this project with three other designers and took the role as product designer. After elaborating the concept idea with my teammates, I was in charge of designing and making the physical prototype; we all collaborated on the communication and presentation of the project.
We decided to choose the gym as our area of exploration. We realised that sound has a huge impact on people’s workout experience, and that by slighlty modifying it, we could either desorientate or guide them.
I created the following videos to understand what would happen if the workout sounds were completely changed:
The notion of rhythm is inherent to both music and workout, so we decided to explore ways of creating music as a workout by-product. This way, we could use it to synchronise a group of users, just like an orchestra.
The Prototyping Process
First, to test the idea, we needed to create a prototype.
We decided to hack an existing kettlebell and create an app. We split into two groups: mine took care of modifying the existing kettlebell while the other managed to link the iPhone gyroscope with bell sounds.
We made a video to demonstrate our first Sonicbells prototype.
The second phase of prototyping consisted of re-desiging the kettlebell to improve ergonomics, as well as securing the iPhone and speakers within the body.
Sonos selected our work to be showcased during an event with real users. To test their response to the kettlebell, we hired a gym instructor to run classes.
It was a complete success. Our users were extremely enthusiastic and involved themselves way beyond our expectations. During the testing, we achieved the goal we set ourselves: Bringing people together with music and exercise.
Our process allowed us to make sure, from the beginning, that the actual sound experience would be effective. I relate that closely to UX and UI process for digital products. Iterative working prototypes are an amazing way to build and develop successful projects.