Lily Gabaree: Fountain of Beats & The Beaten Path


Fountain of Beats

 The Fountain of Beats is a community resource and interactive art and atmosphere piece, drawing on the collective action drum circle players.

A circle of drums surround a quietly bubbling basin. When played, each drum spurs a squirt of water from the basin, forming a fountain, given enough players and beats. Intensity of drumming increases the height of the fountain, and a variety of drums and beats produces varied and unique water displays. The spectacle grows with more participants. 

The feeling of striking a drum evokes a similar movement to splashing water, merging water waves, sound waves, and a familiar motion from childhood.

The Fountain of Beats amplifies the group experience of a drum circle, producing another physical manifestation of their collaborative creation. The fountain display will draw others near, some to engage with the creation process, others to enjoy the spectacle – or perhaps to cool off from a hot summer’s day.



When you hit the drum, the resulting pressure stretches the surface and an underlying stretch sensor. This creates an analog input that is processed by a bluetooth Arduino.

Thus, inputs are: frequency of strike; pressure (loudness); which drums are played; and number of drums played at once. Different drums spur different streams of water, and patterns of particular frequencies spur specific water patterns. Increased pressure and more participants leads to a larger and taller stream. 


The Beaten Path

In nature, we get cues from the environment as to where our peers have tread before. A worn path may lead to a road, a house, a good view. We leave a residue of our travels, creating affordances for future travelers. 

Indoors, we are instead guided by building structures – but this gives us no information about popular spaces within. In some buildings – like museums – the options for routes and destinations may be overwhelming.

What if the floor afforded the best paths for you to take, connecting you with others in the space who have – or had – similar interests?

The Beaten Path is an innovative flooring system that allows slight material depressions, and then remembers those patterns – and reproduces them for future visitors who make an initial move along that space. Path recommendations improve as you walk farther, providing more data points about your interests, which can be compared to similar users to suggest your next step. Find others on your journey – walk together.


The Beaten Path consists of a multi-layer pin-and-actuator adjustable surface, which affords footprint impressions as you walk. The shades of the pins will contrast with the base-level-surface, allowing you to easily perceive even far-away paths, as the base color will be more exposed when the pins are retracted, mimicking the perception of dirt paths within grass fields. You can also feel the path with your feet, as paths will have greater resistance (firm base level) than the “grass” zones, which have pins that give with your weight. Thus, the paths feel more like a traditional floor, whereas venturing off-path gives you the sensation of making your own way, as in a field or a fresh layer of snow.

These impressions will be generalized to pathways for future viewers. As you enter the space, suggested pathways will appear before you, based on the paths chosen by previous walkers who chose to navigate to that point. 


metmusart_floorplan1Upon entering an art museum, you pick up a map, but find that there is over a million square feet to potentially explore, with thousands of pieces. You approach an interesting piece in the atrium. As you turn around, you notice paths leading from your feet down the hall.  You follow one to discover a sculpture from the same era – another popular destination of people who liked the first piece. You are thus connected across space and time with other visitors who were drawn to those pieces; you may encounter new companions along the paths.