My dad could no longer operate a CD player or iPod. But he could use the music player that I designed and made for him. Because it operates like a familiar two-knob radio from his youth. The conventional wisdom is that for people with dementia, try to leverage memories that they made before the age of 21.
I was inspired to make this by the documentary Alive Inside which shows the profound joy felt by some people with dementia when listening to their favorite music. There are about 50 million people with dementia. Other people expressed interest in project, so I refined the design and wrote clear step-by-step instructions.
This project started with a laser cut case. Thanks to Trey Bagley for creating a 3D printable case. If you prefer to laser cut, there are included files for laser cutting in your choice of 5.2mm thick cherry, 5.7mm cherry, or 6.7mm bamboo.
For step-by-step instructions with photos, see the included PDF files. Or visit dqmusicbox.org.
This project was a finalist for the 2017 Hackaday Prize.
Is it hard to make?
It doesn’t require much technical skill. No soldering. It mostly requires following the instructions. Takes about 3 hours, not including printing time. Things you’ll be doing: ordering parts, applying glue, screwing things in, plugging in wires, downloading software. An eight year old made one, and a sixty year old made one. Also, it’s the kind of project that friends and family would be happy to help you with. You can do it!
How much do the parts cost?
I don’t sell anything – this is open source. The instructions have a list of parts e.g. Raspberry Pi. The parts usually cost about $60 in the US.
I recently assembled a dqmusicbox per your instructions – and it just . worked. Yesterday I turned over my incarnation of the box to my father. It has been a long time since I saw such an emotional reaction from him. I let him at it without explanations at all, and he made it work without instructions. … Some of his favorites triggered immediate responses – I should have filmed it. — Ketil
More assistive technology
If you enjoy making assistive technology projects like this, you might enjoy some of the maker projects at Makers Making Change. They “connect makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technology”. They have a nice library of helpful projects.
Nothing about this model is intended to be printer-specific. It should work just fine on a MakerBot. You'll see that I chose to use a wood filament PLA, so the print can be finished with regular wood stain. But regular PLA will be just fine.
You may encounter a scaling issue when you load the STL files into your slicer. The STL files are exports from Blender. I generally load the files into Cura. Sometimes a part will show as tiny in Cura, always off in size by 10x or 100x or 1,000x. Scaling the part in Cura solves the problem. The music player is about 150mm tall and about 130mm wide. The knobs are about 30mm in diameter.
My specific settings:
- Monoprice PLA wood filament
- Layer height: 0.2mm
- Initial layer height: 0.3mm
- Wall thickness: 0.8mm
- Top/bottom thickness: 0.8mm
- Infill: 10%
- Print temp: 215C
- Build plate temp: 60C
- Diameter: 1.75mm
- Flow: 100%
- Enable retraction: yes
- Retraction distance: 1.75mm
- Retraction speed: 25mm/sec
- Print speed: 40mm/sec
- Infill speed: 50mm/sec
- Travel speed: 80mm/sec
- Initial layer speed: 10mm/sec
- Enable print cooling: yes
- Fan speed: 100%
- Minimum layer time: 10 sec
- Print sequence: all at once
For the laser cut models, I started from online generators. Specifically boxes.py and MakerCase. Then modified by hand in Inkscape.
For the 3D printed model, Trey Bagley used Blender.
For the electronic hardware, I evaluated a number of different options - Arduino, Raspberry Pi, various Pi-like single board computers, and audio-only boards. For key software, I never looked at anything other than VLC as it is a near perfect fit. The combination of Raspberry Pi & VLC is both capable and easy. Capable in that it provided all the needed features, including supporting music in MP3, iTunes, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis formats. Simple in that it's a no-solder build - all the component connect to the Pi with jumper wires.