Chris Riebschlager and his team at Dimensional Innovations were recently asked to come up with something special for a two day music festival earlier this month in Kansas City called Boulevardia. Aiming to create something to engage and captivate visitors, the designers came up with a 12-foot high, 500 lb installation shaped like an electric guitar that visitors could actually play.
The guitar was made from MDF and steel, with CNC-machines layers making up the body and neck parts laminated together, and cavities created for the electronics and wiring. Inside, a Bare Conductive touch board was used to make the 16-gauge galvanized wire stretched from the head to the bridge conductive.
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When a touch was detected, some simple code sent a message to a Raspberry Pi brain and caused a WAV audio file to sound through an amp at the back of the installation. For a consistent sound, the guitar tones were exported from GarageBand.
Large buttons positioned on the guitar's upper body were connected to the Pi's GPIO header pins, which allowed strummers to "play" chords by choosing appropriately marked minor and major chords from A to G. The system also offered players the chance to play clean or dirty.
The Pi's 3.5 mm audio jack was found to be less than ideal for the sonic output, so Riebschlager opted to use HDMI as an audio out via an adapter, resulting in clean audio being routed to the stage monitor. The painted and finished body was adorned with festival-themed stickers, and the installation positioned at the festival's main entrance.
You can watch a short demo of the interactive installation in the video below. As you'll see, the guitar can't really be played in the traditional sense, but that's probably just as well. Imagine the callouses after a few minutes fretting that thing! If you want to have a play, the guitar is to be installed at the offices of Dimensional Innovations in Kansas.