The Barcode Piano is a music instrument and a toy for children to explore and understand the essential principles behind barcodes. Barcodes are unique information holders and can be used to identify entities such as mail, products or patients by reading the unique information embedded in the barcode’s numbers and lines.

The Barcode Piano invites children to explore the concept of barcodes through a tangible interface consisting of a board, bricks, a button and sounds inspired by the piano as a metaphor. By combining the different barcode bricks, children can copy barcodes and listen to their unique tunes. Each brick will play a unique tone creating new tunes every time a complete barcode is put into place on the Barcode Piano.

The Barcode Piano has been published on vol. 16 of MetaTrend and has been featured on an incredible number of website: Gizmodo, Business Insider, Unplggd, NotCot, HelloCotton, DesignSpotter, Das Kraftfuttermischwerk,, ObsessedArtist, and many others. Also, hundreds of people have tweeted about it.

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The Barcode Piano

The overall idea has been to convey the fact that barcodes are unique through creating a tangible and sensuous experience with sound as output. While being a low cost technology, barcodes can contain complex amounts of information depending on the context of use. Thus, we chose from an early stage to focus on the core principles of barcodes.

Built on the Arduino platform, Barcode Piano uses simple and low cost technology. Each brick contains a different resistor that makes it possible to distinguish each brick from the rest of the bricks. When a brick is placed on the Barcode Piano it completes a circuit enabling the Arduino to read which resistor/brick is being placed and provide the accordingly sound output.

The Barcode Piano has been developed at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID, during the Physical Computing class held by Massimo Banzi, David A. Mellis, and David Gauthier.

The Barcode Piano has been designed and built by Marco Triverio, Hao-Ting Chang, and Helle Rohde Andersen. Marco has taken part in the initial ideation and brainstorming, in the realization of the electronics and of the wooden parts, and in the programming.

Would you like to build one? The Barcode Piano is now open-source.

Click here to download source code and schematics.

The Barcode Piano has been developed in just four days (concept to implementation).

Lots of attention has been paid to the interaction with the barcode bricks and many “quick and dirty” prototypes have been developed to test shape, size, weight, and feel of the brick.