The Squishies are soft, fabric-based interfaces designed for music making. Each squeezable toy contains pressure sensors that detect changes in interactions on the outer shell. These music toys are designed to function as a low-level entry point into the electronic music world and as a new kind of pliable MIDI controller for higher-level users. They can also act as tools for meditation, as a physical object that can help users concentrate on small movements.
The Squishies have been user tested with a wide variety of people to fit the different use cases for the toys. I ran a series of workshops with kids, adult meditation workshops, and several studies with high-level users to see what an experienced electronic musician could do with a Squishy. The toys were very well received by people in all the user groups: kids were excited about learning music with the Squishies; meditation users felt that using the toys enhanced their experience; and the more experienced users wanted to explore the design space of the controllers even further.
The toys have their own software interface, which was designed as a standalone computer program through the music software MAX/MSP. This interface allows users to control the speed and pitch shift of a variety of pre-loaded music samples, and has a recording tool that lets them record and manipulate their own sounds.
The Squishies were the subject of my Master’s thesis at the MIT Media Lab. You can download the full text of my thesis here, or the NIME publication about them here.
Other info on the Squishies (including instructions on how to make your own!) can be found here.