Plants are Alive with the Sound of Music, Hills to Follow in 2014

Today on this gadget blog designed to bring you all things exciting and hi-tech, I bring you plants.

What’s that you say? Plants aren’t hi-tech and are barely exciting? Well, on any other day about any other plant, you may have a point. These plants, however, were designed by students at Keio University in Tokyo to be just about the most exciting, and unique plants in existence. That’s because they are built with a series of LED lights, sensor modules, speakers, and good old fashioned programming that turn them into musical instruments.

Umm…..Not Quite.

Dubbed “Sound Gardening,” they’re designed for multiple users to experience at once. The plants are real, and respond to touch and movement to generate certain noises, music, and voices. Certain plants work together to create a melody, and when a series of proper sensors are activated, a bonus sound appropriate to the current melody is played. The technology that powers this invention is fairly impressive, yet oddly, according to one of the sound designers on the project, the most difficult part was actually getting the plants to sing. Along with voices being triggered by specific motions, the voice feature is also used to alert passerbys of the plant’s capabilities as it will whisper “Hey, over here” in Japanese after 30 seconds of inactivity.

The team behind this project imagines that it can be used as a group musical activity, but their main motivation behind it seemed to be as a creative outlet to allow them to work on something outside of the normal creative constrictions. In short, they wanted to have fun with this project, and they’ve already noticed how much fun others have when they try it as well. Being in nature is very relaxing in and of itself, and when you combine interactive social music in with that, you have a device that can produce sheer joy and pure imagination. In a world where technology seems to be aimed at making our lives more and more stressful, inventions like this that first look like mere novelties are sometimes more important than they appear.


The Hunt for Red September Looks to Recreate the Submarine Experience

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a submarine commander.

Ok, that’s a lie. But I did watch a lot of “Das Boot” in high school, and I’ve always preferred the “Star Trek” style of space combat (submarine style) to “Star Wars” (airplane dogfighting). Now usually when I draw such a vague fascination with something tangible that I don’t feel like putting the effort forth to actually achieve, I turn to video games to feed the need. However, the world of submarine simulation video games are all mostly in the same family as the “Microsoft Flight Simulator” games. Which is to say, they’re so incredibly realistic, by the time you get a handle on them, you would have been better off actually becoming a real captain/commander.

Well now, in a weird meta twist, where video games have failed to properly create an entertaining simulation of real life, real life has stepped in.

The creative geniuses at 1.21 Jigawatts are looking to defend their Red Bull Creation contest crown with their new invention “The Hunt for Red September.” It’s a built to scale submarine model simulator that requires a player to operate the right series of valves, levers, and buttons (as instructed by an on board voice system) in order to prevent a series of disasters. Fail to complete the simulation in its 2 minute time limit, and the model sprays you with an absurd amount of water as punishment. Even cooler is the social interaction features, which allows people to tweet “depth charge” to the simulation causing the entire machine to rock back and forth via hydraulics, and allows for the ability for enough people to tweet for a torpedo to attack the sub, the incoming progress of which can be followed via an onboard LCD screen.

Now if this sounds awesome, it’s because it is. However, this is no friendly game. Players have mere seconds to properly multitask the required functions in the right order before becoming drenched with water bursts. It apparently takes some serious skill to complete the simulation, which is only appropriate as it matches the skill put into this project in the first place. The team built this model in just 72 hours out of mostly spare parts, with the intention of winning the 2012 Red Bull Creation contest, and therefore making it to the Maker Faire in New York this September.

While there are no current plans for this model beyond that, I’d personally like to see Fortune 500 companies start using one in lieu of job interviews.