Move over, collecting stickers off your Coke to try to win Monopoly. Dutch McDonald’s customers can DJ using a combination of their phone and a placemat.

McDonalds McTrax from This Page Amsterdam on Vimeo.

How does it work? Think conductive ink – the basics of electronics and resistive circuits (and, of course, something you can do with paper, too). Add the smartphone, and you get some fairly decent features:

  • Trigger loops
  • Play effects
  • Control tempo
  • Record samples

How it works:

With paper printed using conductive ink, the McTrax contains a small battery and thin circuit board with 26 digital touchpoints offering in-house produced audio loops, synths and other musical effects. Your smartphone acts as the speaker and screen and you can also record your own voice. All you need to do is put your phone on the mat, download an app and sync it to the placemat via Bluetooth.

The project is the work of interactive studio This Page Amsterdam, in conjunction with the agency TBWA/Neboko. The latter are responsible for “disruptieve ideeen voor merken als Albert Heijn.” (I’m not sure what disruptive things happen in an Albert Heijn – that’s a Dutch supermarket – but there you go. I’ll be ready the next time tomatoes start singing to me when I enter the produce section.)

This Page Amsterdam have some serious projects, too. They’ve used VR to create empathy for the refugee experience, and worked with neuroscientists to help kids stay away from toxic toys. Here, the client might be a fast food joint, but it’s nice to see they’ve still put some heart in the work as far as inspiring creativity. (And this is the country that can consume bitterballen on a regular basis and live – I’m sure they’ll bike off that Happy Meal, no worries.)

More:
http://thispage.amsterdam/mctrax/, via AdWeek

Engadget wonders where the American McDonald’s is on this. Our guess: cheesy-fast food dance music will lag behind in America by several years, until the Yankees catch on to the Dutch star. Not that that’s ever happened before. Cough.

Thanks, Francis!

  • This might change my vacation plans.

    • LLCoolJeans

      I’m from the US and when in Austria got really excited to try European Burger King, assuming it would taste better because the EU has higher standards for meat than the US. Unfortunately/amazingly, my double cheeseburger tasted exactly the same as the one I had 5000 miles away but cost twice as much… : /

  • jc

    Built with open source AudioKit! http://audiokit.io

  • Polite Society

    Would really love a breakdown of the tech used for this, if you can get a word with the developers.

    • jc

      I work on the library this software is based on. It’s a bluetooth midi connection coming from the placemat, so basically the placemat is a wireless midi controller set up to work with software running on the phone. The sampling and sequencing stuff is all done on the phone, the mat sends midi messages to manipulate everything.

      • Polite Society

        Thanks for replying! So does that mean you have a embedded battery to power the bluetooth in the mat? Or is it somehow sourcing the power from the phone? Would be interested in the kind of ICs or anything else you would like to share (i’m guessing asking for schematics would be too much).
        Because other than the ink providing the connections, and probably forming the capactitive style touch interface, surely you still need something to receive all the data and run the bluetooth, yeah?
        I’m part of a local hackerspace, and would love to pointed in any direction that would help me understand and possibly recreate it.
        No problem if it’s proprietary, and you aren’t able to discuss it, I totally understand.

        • jc

          Howdy
          I only worked on software library that helped to build this – so I can’t comment too much on the hardware or inner workings. However, from what I know of this technology, there will be some sort of a battery in it. The rest is a wireless bluetooth connection. The schematics are actually really simple – it’s contact points going into a device that sends those basic messages via bluetooth – there is going to be a chip on there doing the heavy lifting. Q-Bert did a similar thing with his recent record release – the record sleeve worked to control DJay on an iphone. The company that did the record sleeve for him is called Novalia and you can look them up for more ideas of what they have done with this technology.
          The technology is actually in a lot of devices these days because, we all know how tech just gets smaller and smaller. The AcPad is another demonstration of getting the wireless bluetooth control to a really thin form factor. I imagine this cardboard stuff is similar.

      • Marco Scherer, Beat Mag

        jc, do you know anything about distribution of that thing? There’s nothing to be found in the whole internet, except that teaser video. Is that thing just a clever marketing campaign or does it exist?

  • Spazmatron

    Can we order a place mat?
    And does anyone know how this works? It says conductive ink, which I understand, but the phone is just sitting on it?

    • jc

      Bluetooth midi – it’s pretty amazing technology and we’re starting to see it show up in a lot of new products. At NAMM this year, I think Roland, Yamaha, and Korg all announced products that incorporated it in some way.

  • esolesek

    Too bad most of the music will be grunting over lame-level digital crapola. Just don’t criticize it, you might be called racist.