SandBand is an interactive musical sandbox that allows users to play music while they are getting their hands dirty. It is an experiment in how users interact with tactile material and what they are willing to sense to get an outcome.



Concept Development

User Experience Designer

Code Developer






For this project, I wanted to explore physical interaction and at the same time how to encourage play in all ages.  


This project began with a brainstorm of ideas. I let my mind wander to see what I could create. The only requirement given was to create something physical.


After reviewing my brainstorming, I realized my goals for this project were to:

  • focus on the senses of touch and hearing rather than sight
  • encourage users of all ages to play
  • make something that did not need initial instructions (intuitive) 

With these goals in mind, I decided to focus on the musical sandbox. Going to the beach and the playground something that almost everyone has experienced. When we see sand, we don't need to know what to do; we just have the instinct to touch it.



Using just some sand, a cardboard box and music clips, I tested what the experience would be like for the user. 


Through user testing I found that:

  • users want to have distinct musical changes
  • the type of sand changed the experience (wet vs. dry, dramatic vs. calm)
  • some people do not like to get their hands dirty
  • most like to play and wanted to continue after


With my goals focused and a better understanding of needs, I decided to sketch a variety of methods to fabricate the interaction. It wasn't until sketching these that I was able to see the issues with each and assess which method. 


While these weren't user findings, I did come to understand that:

  • there needs to be room for displacement of the sand
  • the type of sand used (wet vs. dry) is a contributing factor in deciding configuration
  • wet sand is needed to hold its shape
  • there needs to be easy access to trouble shooting

Because of the need of the change in sand not be determined by the displacement of it and the need to make the sand weight so castle can be made easily, the Kinect version was chosen. This option is also easy to troubleshoot as the sand would not need to be emptied to inspect issues.

Fabrication and final iteration

There were two parts to fabricating this: physical and digital. For the physical part, I built a 2'6" x 3" wooden sandbox. Due to the volume of sand needed for this, I added corner supports to prevent damage. The Kinect was then place above the box allowing for enough height to play but also only viewing the sand depth.




Over the two days this was displayed, I found a variety of recommendations and observations. The common were:

  • Recommendations to use kinetic sand because it feels nice, less dirty, and holds its shape.
  • Many people did not want to get their hands dirty and were disappointed to find out it was sand.
  • Although, this was a project about sound, most visitors desired a lighting effect
  • Many played without noticing the music. The simplicity of sand was enough to encourage play
  • Adults often felt the need to leave even if they wanted to stay while the children were likely to stay as long as they could