The Vibrating Floor


Pretty much since I started working at Three Ways School, nearly ten years ago now, I have had my eye on a cavity which was built into the Sensory Studio floor. It was pretty much sealed in and over the years I have done investigations and tried to get hold of missing plans etc to find out what is down there. Over the last couple of years I started work in earnest and got some budget to create a vibrating floor.

Having come up with a rough design I set about trying to find a carpenter willing to take on the project. Once I had detailed my requirements, mostly I found that the carpenters stopped returning my emails and answering my calls. However, Andy Emmerson (Emmerson of Bath) was made of sterner stuff and agreed to take on the build.

We built a floating floor mounted on rubber supports and powered by two powerful shaker motors. These motors can be driven with low frequency audio meaning you can feel music with very limited audible sound. Andy did a great job on the frame, there are no rattles and the floor moves freely for a great responsive and very powerful vibration.

I am currently working on a suite of tools for using vibration effects with SEN children and will eventually link the visual floor projection with the underlying vibration events.

Vibrotactile Loop - Threeways School, Bath

At Threeways we made a vibrotactile loop that can be activated using an on-board switch or an external switch plugged in through a Jack port in the device. Pressing the button to activates the vibration which is provided by a motor housed in a synthetic rubber and PVC repurposed from a massage tube. We had this tube spare after using the caps from it to fix 2 other massage tubes and thought it would be a shame to waste it, so the vibrotactile loop was born. This packs quite a punch and is a great tactile sensory tool. 

The last image in the grid above is the Fritzing plan for the simple electronic set-up inside the main box. The components we used were: 

Cool components big button. LED that came with the button. A 1/4 inch audio socket. A 3v regulator. A 9V battery clip with 9V battery, some wire and a piece of strip-board to connect it all up.

When using the 3v regulator be careful to check which pins are which before connecting. The motor requires 3v and the LED 12v so we used, as an in-between, a 9v battery with a regulator to allow 3v to go to the motor and the 9v to go straight to the LED. 

The Musii - Threeways School, Bath

Threeways purchased a Musii a little while back now and have had some great sessions with it. It has 3 inflatable prongs with built in distance sensors and LED lighting and makes musical sounds as you press them in. The software runs on a little built in Linux machine and it is all self contained with an amp and speaker inside meaning it also vibrates. I always find that sound needs to be local like this for a meaningful experience, rather than coming out of a speaker over there on a wall which can be a little abstract. Since we have had the unit it has been updated to make the sounds less discordant which has helped, but the only other issue we have had is access. Wheelchairs can not get very close to it, but the company are very open to critique and they are apparently looking at something more lap based. Personally, I'd love these to be coming directly out of the floor or the wall!