Media Lab Europe
Human Connectedness research group


a handheld ad-hoc radio device for local music sharing

Arianna Bassoli, Julian Moore, Stefan Agamanolis

tunA is a mobile wireless application that allows users to share their music locally through handheld devices. Users can "tune in" to other nearby tunA music players and listen to what someone else is listening to. Developed on iPaqs and connected via 802.11b in ad-hoc mode, the application displays a list of people using tunA that are in range, gives access to their profile and playlist information, and enables synchronized peer-to-peer audio streaming.

Can the Walkman become a social experience?

Can anyone become a mobile radio station?

With the tunA project we are investigating a way to use music in order to connect people at a local scale, through the creation of dynamic and ad-hoc wireless networks. tunA allows users to listen to what other people in physical proximity are listening to, synchronized to enable the feeling of a shared experience. tunA also provides the opportunity to users to share their songs in many situations and while moving around, fostering a sense of awareness of the surrounding physical environment.

In this project, music constitutes the main interest around which communities, virtual and real, can be formed and reinforced. Music is commonly used as a form of mobile entertainment, through personal devices such as Walkmans or digital players. While so far listening to music when moving around has been mostly an individual and quite isolating experience, tunA suggests it could also be made into a fun and socialising experience.

tunA can be used as a standard MP3 player for personal music, but it also keeps track of all the other tunA users who are in range and provides options to access their personal profile and playlist information. The user has an option to "tune in" and start listening to what another person is listening to. An important aspect of this work is the synchronisation of the listening experience. The "tune in" option gives in fact only streaming access to the song the remote user is currently listening to, not other songs in their playlist. To keep track of songs and people encountered, tunA incorporates the ability to keep a record of favorites.

tunA could accommodate a number of scenarios in which people gather during the course of the day. For example, while riding the bus or subway to and from work, people could discover what other commuters are listening to nearby and perhaps get to know each other over time. Or while spending an afternoon in a park or on the beach, people could tune in to the music their friends are listening while relaxing under the sun and have a shared music experience without disturbing others nearby who don't wish to listen to music.

Special thanks to Cian Cullinan for his contribution to the initial stages of this project.

Publications and Links

  • The technology underlying the tunA prototype is the subject of a US patent application entitled "Synchronized Media Streaming Between Distributed Peers" (US publication 2005/0286546). The synchronization algorithm described in the patent is potentially applicable to many scenarios requiring synchronous playback of the same piece of time-based media on multiple devices/nodes connected over heterogeneous channels consisting of varying degrees of delay. This patent application is currently held by the inventors. Please contact Stefan Agamanolis for more information.

  • tunA was shortlisted for the Software Industry Technical Innovation Award 2004, presented by the Irish Software Assocation.

  • Arianna Bassoli, Julian Moore, and Stefan Agamanolis, tunA: Socialising Music Sharing on the Move (book chapter), in Kenton O'Hara and Barry Brown (eds), Consuming Music Together: Social and Collaborative Aspects of Music Consumption Technologies, Springer, 2006. (link)

  • tunA was exhibited during the "Interfacing Sound" and "Networked Experience" cruises at ISEA 2004 12th International Symposium on Electronic Arts, Baltic Sea, 14 - 22 August 2004.

  • Arianna Bassoli, Julian Moore, and Stefan Agamanolis, tunA: Synchronized Music-Sharing on Handheld Devices, Adjunct Proceedings, UbiComp 2004 Sixth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Nottingham, England, 7 - 10 September 2004. (PDF)

  • Arianna Bassoli, Julian Moore, and Stefan Agamanolis, tunA: Local Music Sharing with Handheld Wi-Fi Devices, Fifth Wireless World Conference, University of Surrey, UK, 15 - 16 July 2004. (PDF)

  • tunA was presented at the First International Workshop on Mobile Music Technology, Viktoria Institute, Göteborg, Sweden, 10 - 11 June 2004.

  • Arianna demonstrated tunA and participated in a panel discussion on the "Future of Peer to Peer on Mobile Networks" at the Austin Mobility Roundtable 2004, Austin, Texas, 11 - 12 March 2004.

  • Arianna Bassoli, Cian Cullinan, Julian Moore, and Stefan Agamanolis, TunA: a mobile music experience to foster local interactions, Adjunct Proceedings, UbiComp 2003 Fifth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Seattle, 12 - 15 October 2003. (PDF)

    Background study that inspired the development of tunA:

  • Arianna Bassoli, Irene Quinn, Mark Agius, Andrew Moran, Valentina Nisi, Paolo Dini, and Christina Quinlan, Social research for WAND and new media adoption on a local scale, dyd02: 2nd International Conference on Open Collaborative Design for Sustainable Innovation, Bangalore, 1 - 2 December 2002. (PDF)