MagNular is a soundtoy for one or many players. A variety of particle objects are selected and dropped into a virtual room by the player(s). Each of the 15 types of particles available has simulated physics behaviours and represents a different sound type. Virtual magnets are used by the players to attract or repel the particles, allowing them to be freely moved around the room, resulting in collision events that trigger and transform sound. The parameters of which depend upon the object each particle collides with, and the velocity of impact of each collision. MagNular uses conventional gamepads as its input device to allow the project to be widely (and freely) distributed for recreational play in a home environment. The project is built using the Unity 3D game engine, which runs alongside an external sound engine built in Max/MSP.


The player controlled magnets can be activated to attract particles within their immediate vicinity. Once attracted, the particles can be dragged around the space, causing the particles to collide with any of the 36 tile objects mounted on the walls, floor and ceiling of the virtual room, resulting in corresponding synchronized sonic events and sound transformation processes. The parameters of which depend upon which tile each particle hits, and the velocity of impact. Each magnet can be set to repel objects at varied intensities, resulting in clusters of player timed collisions around the room. Multiplayer options allow the sound toy to be used for collaborative play. Once a player has become accustomed with the sonic behaviors of each particle object and collision tile, compositional decisions can be made by the players regarding the particles and collision objects to interact with using the magnets. Precise control of all sound events is not a goal of the project. The players influence the physics system to create different types, intensities and densities of clustered sonic events. The project is designed as an exploratory sound toy, with no sound parameter names or labels included in the virtual space. No visual clues are given that allow the player to predict or differentiate between the different types of sound transformation processes initiated by each tile.


Particle collisions instigate sampled sound onsets, with the particle type and individual particle index determining sample selection within the sound engine. Each tile collision controls the signal routing of the colliding particle sound to one of the multiple DSP processes. Particle impact velocity values use one-to-many mappings to simultaneously control a number of different sound parameters. These include the amplitude and filter settings for each particle collision event, as well as tile specific DSP effect parameter values. Using real-time DSP allows significant detail and variation in the sound output, dramatically reducing repetitiveness. The same level of variation would be technically impractical with a solely sample based approach.

System Structure

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