Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Furthering Development of Smart Fabrics to Improve the Accessibility of Music Therapy

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-29-2023

Faculty Advisor(s)

Franceli L. Cibrian


Through music, children can learn to express themselves and communicate with others, thereby enhancing their social and emotional skills throughout their development. However, traditional musical instruments demand consistent musical training and control, which introduces a challenge for some individuals, including children with differences in their motor, sensory, and attention skills. In this research, we are designing and developing HarmonicThreads, a smart, cost-effective musical interface that allows users to produce music by touching a fabric. HarmonicThreads' design adopts the natural user interface of an elastic display, and it is augmented by generative machine learning algorithms to create music in real-time according to the user's interaction. To develop the sensing capability of the fabric, we explored two approaches, indirect optical sensing and direct touch sensing. By comparing both approaches, we found that direct touch sensing requires a less computationally expensive algorithm, less configuration, and less hardware than the indirect optical approach. Particularly, we may implement direct touch sensing by embedding conductive materials into a fabric, hence giving it the ability to sense and respond to touch stimuli directly, and eliminating the need for external sensing hardware. Therefore, the architecture of our prototype involves microcontrollers that read data from capacitive touch sensor boards, and conductive threads sewn into a fabric. We hypothesize that, by designing intuitively with affordable and portable hardware, HarmonicThreads will mitigate the boundaries imposed by traditional musical instruments and will improve inclusivity for individuals with disabilities. In our future work, we will integrate generative algorithms to support personalization for neurodiverse individuals in different contexts.


Presented at the Fall 2023 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.

The paper associated with this presentation is available at

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