Disney researchers create a musical plant

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

plant instrument
As a person moves their finger along a plant that’s equipped with Touche, they can generate cool sounds!

Ever hear about Josiah Zayner, who created the world’s smallest violin? Besides being super small, the “chromochord” instrument used plant proteins to compose sweet-sounding melodies. Now, you’d think musical plants would be totally unique, but apparently, Disney “imagineer” Ivan Poupyrev has designed an even more impressive program that turns any plant into an instrument!

Sounds pretty creative, huh? Well, Poupyrev is an imaginative guy! He’s also the mastermind behind the whispering finger microphone “Ishin-Den-Shin” and letting people “feel” objects on touchscreens. Shoot, according to Fast Company, he’s one of the top 100 creative minds in the world!

It’s no wonder Disney asked him to design an interactive screen that was responsive to touch… yet not a touchscreen. Yeah, I know, that hurt my brain a little. Well, it got Poupyrev’s creative gears going and he invented Touche. The program uses Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing, which allows you “to make almost everything – humans, tables, objects, water, anything – touch sensitive and interactive with a single wire.”

Just to prove that anything could work with the tech, Poupyrev hooked it up to a plant! When the leaves of the plant are touched, they play what sounds like electric violins. As a person moves their fingers up and down the plant-y parts, the tones and pitch of the sounds change.

There are so many more things Poupyrev could have attached Touche to, so why did he pick a plant? He says it’s “for multiple reasons” and that because artificially (manmade) structures are expensive, plants seemed an obvious choice. “With a plant, it grows by itself, it heals by itself, all you need to get a plant is a seed and dirt. And now you can grow your interfaces, you can grow your interactive environment without having to build it,” he explains.

I can’t wait to see if Disney incorporates this into their theme parks. Hopefully, they use it in their upcoming Avatar addition, like in the tree of Eywa that stores the recorded voices of Na’vi ancestors. What could be more appropriate?!

Images courtesy of Disney Research on YouTube.