This instrument creates music based on the emotional status of Twitter users


“We’re pickin’ up good (social) vibe-rations.”


Initially designed as a Master’s degree project at the University of Limerick in Ireland by Cian McLysaght, Social Vibes is a unique installation that creates music based the emotional expressions of Twitter users.

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The harmonic tunes are derived from a continuous stream of input by multiple Twitter users as well as the explicit interaction from those tweeting the steampunk-esque machine via its @vibe_experiment handle. Data associated with the emotional status of those online is mined from the social network via its open-source API. Meanwhile, Vibe adopts fundamental sound mechanisms used in a vibraphone (hence its name) and is powered by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).

How it works is simple. When a user sends a post to Vibe directly, they are given instant remote control over the instrument. At that moment, their emotional state is shown on the device’s built-in LCD display as their tweet/musical composition is ambiently shared. A user can tweet using their Twitter account or by Twitcam, where the Vibe streams live video and audio online of the instrument being played.

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“For example if a user tweets ‘The sun is out, I’m happy,’ the code I’ve written will strip out key words and strings associated with the user’s emotional state, within the tweets, i.e. ‘I’m happy,’ and translate this to a musical notation. Mining Twitter’s API, allows a continuous stream of data. These emotional states are then mapped to specific notes on the physical musical instrument, located in a public space. The tempo of the musical expression will be entirely based upon the speed and volume of the incoming tweets on the Twitter API,” McLysaght writes.

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The instrument itself is comprised of a dozen musical tones of varying pitches, which are created by striking any one of 12 keys using the ATmega328-driven solenoids. What’s fun is that this enables users to hijack the instrument in a playful manner, as well as provides those with musical knowledge the opportunity to compose simple musical arrangements. When users are not tweeting the instrument directly, the Vibe will revert to mining the Twitter API.

Interested? Head over to its official page to learn more, or watch it in action below!

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