Piano stairs

Embed developed the technology for an art project in Paris.

A shopping center in Paris wanted to have a special artwork: piano stairs. These stairs look like a piano. When people walk on the stairs, the stairs make a sound with each step. The sounds sound like a piano. This is a unique art project, for which no ready-made stairs was for sale. A third party has built the stairs and Embed developed the custom technology for the stairs.

The black and white photo of the stairs was taken in Paris by Virginie from the blog Mes petites paillettes.


Embed first wanted to know if it was possible to measure the weight of people on the stair steps. For this purpose Embed made a Proof of Concept (POC). This POC existed of a number of steps and prototype electronics. The POC turned out to work. Embed then developed the electronics which measure if someone is standing on a step. The electronics work on the entire width of all the 30 steps. Embed also developed software for these electronics. The software allows the synthesizer in the stairs to play a sound when someone steps on a stair step. The sound comes from a speaker that hangs above the stairs. Special about this software is that is contains a boot-loader. There’s a micro-controller in each step and these micro-controllers contain software. The boot-loader allows all 30 micro-controllers to be updated at the same time, so that not all the steps need to be detached.

When the development of the electronics and software was finished, an installation company built the electronics in the stairs in Paris. After the installation Embed fine-tuned the piano stairs.

Meanwhile the piano stairs are in use and hundreds of visitors can daily enjoy the sounds that the stairs make.