yuanzhou@gatech.edu   |    (917) 755 6835   |   linkedin.com/in/yuanzhouhci/




A foot-controlled portable device serving as a mute metronome and a page turner to enhance musician’s instrument playing experience

1. Overview


Design Objective

To improve musician’s instrument playing experience

Musicians feel frustrated about:

•  Having to stop when turning the page

•  Being disturbed when using traditional audible metronome 

My Role


2. Research



Research Goals

1. Learn about how, when and where instrument players play instruments

2. Find out what instrument players need and what’s their frustration and probe into the reasons behind

My Role

1. In the research phase, I took part in observation and interviewed 3 participates as the interviewer. Then I worked with teammates to analyze our data and distilled the user requirements and pain points from our findings.

2. In the design phase, I actively contributed to ideation and led the interaction design. I also built the prototype using 3D printing and Arduino. 

3. In terms of evaluation, I contributed to feedback sessions for design ideas as interviewer and designed the usability test.


Aug. 2016 - Dec. 2016


Pen &Paper


3D Printing



Project Team

Yuan Zhou

Quehua Chen

Minhang Xie



Through observing a rehearsal of Tsinghua University Chinese Orchestra, we were able to understand how musicians play different kinds of instruments and identify potential pain points from a behavior level. Some key findings are

•  Almost all instruments require musicians to use both hands to play most of the time.

•  Musicians need to turn the page frequently while they have to stop to turn the page.

•  Apart from the wrong notes, the unstable rhythms are the most common mistakes.




Semi-structured Interview

Aside from observation, we interviewed 6 musicians in person to understand when and where they play instruments, the devices they are using when playing instruments, and to identify their need and current pain points and probe into the reason behind. Some important findings are:

•  Musicians travel very often for learning, teaching or performing their instruments.

•  It is a must for musicians of all levels to use metronome because it helps musicians train their ability to stick to a tempo by producing audible beats at regular intervals.

•  Users feel frustrated using the metronome because the sound of metronome disturbs musicians from listening to what they are playing and stops listeners from enjoying the music.

•  Musicians like the convenience of using tablet like iPad to store and display music scores.




Design Criteria

Based on user needs and pain points, we generated design criteria in order to have a more specific guideline for the following design phases.


We visited 3 different Home Depot stores to observe the spatial layout of the store, how




3. Design Iteration


We conducted the ideation session as a group to come up design ideas that addresses user needs and pain points while fitting the design criteria.

To solve the problem that users have to stop when turning the page, we came up with following ideas:

•  Using the camera to detect user’s head movement. When the head turns right, the page is turned. When the head turns left, the page is turned back.

•  Using a button or a pressure sensor to detect user’s foot movement. When the foot taps once, the page will be turned. When the foot double taps, the page will be turned back.


To solve the problem that users feel disturbed when using audible metronomes but they need metronomes to practice playing to a regular pulse, we came up ideas using light or vibration to represent each beat:

•  Using part of tablet’s screen to show the beat. Each time a beat comes, that part of the screen will blink.

•  Putting a vibrator on user’s wrist or under user’s foot so users can feel the beat.


User Feedback Session

We interviewed 4 musicians to get feedback for our design ideas. We described our design ideas and then asked participants’ opinions on these ideas, including why they are useful and potential issues they might cause, and what’s their preference. 

For ideas to solve the page turning problem, participants preferred using the food to turn the page because turning head prevents them from focusing on the score.

For ideas to solve the audible metronome problem, participants preferred vibration to light signal because change of screen light would distract them from focusing on the score. Participants also stated that their fingers are extremely sensitive during instrument playing so it is better to put vibrator under their feet than on their wrists.


Final Design

Based on user feedback we gathered for our ideas, we designed and prototyped a smart device called TRIO which allows the user to

•  turn the page by tapping TRIO once. Double tapping it will turn the page back.

•  set the BPM (beats per minute) using its paired App and TRIO will vibrate every time the tempo comes.


The foot is the ideal choice to feel the vibration and to control page turning out of 2 reasons. As a player’s wrists and fingers are extremely sensitive during instrument playing, vibration can’t happen anywhere near them. A Player’s hands are usually both occupied when playing the instrument.


Real button

TRIO has a real button to control the page turning so that people will get a very clear feedback when the button is pushed down



TRIO has the same size as a credit card so that musicians can carry it everywhere in their wallet.



TRIO looks like a paddle which makes you want to step onto it naturally



TRIO uses low-energy-use Bluetooth 4.0 to communicate with other devices, which gives it a long life.


Usability Test

We conducted usability test with 4 musicians. We introduced the functionality of TRIO and then each participant practiced playing their instruments with the help of TRIO for 20 minutes. After that, we interviewed each participant about their opinions on their user experience.

All the participants stated TRIO is easy to learn and use. At the same time, they enjoyed the convenience of using foot to turn the page and muted metronome helps them focus on the music they are playing better.

Here are some quotes from our participants:

•  “I thought it would be hard to tap the button using my foot, but I basically learned it right away…”

•  “I play drum in a band, now with TRIO, I can use it in the recording room. TRIO will definitely make my work easily since it is muted…”

•  “I really hate my old metronome, I wish I have had TRIO all the time in my childhood…”



I presented TRIO at GIX Innovation Competition 2016 and TRIO won the The Third Prize.