This Contraption Transforms Houseplants Into Musical Instruments

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Former Staff Writer
3 min read

A music producer sporting a checkered beanie and white-rimmed sunglasses sits next to a small houseplant whose leaves have been wired with electrodes.

He starts fondling its stalks -- whereupon sounds emanate from a tiny device nearby. Giggling to himself in both amusement and disbelief, his head bobs in time with the curious rhythms.

But this isn’t a joke. In an eco-friendly culture that increasingly prizes all things green, it’s a jam session for the future.

Rather than viewing them merely as objects of decor, an art collective called Data Garden has staked a noted interest in how houseplants sound. And the company's invention, called the MIDI Sprout, is sowing major seed funding on Kickstarter -- to the tune of over $27,000.

The MIDI Sprout gauges plant biorhythms and turns that feedback into a sort of “music,” the company says. See the device in action below:

“By spending time with your plants as they play music -- music that is an expression of their physiological changes -- you’ll find that your plants are as perceptive of their surroundings as you are,” reads the company’s Kickstarter page. “Maybe even more.”

But just how does the contraption work? Two probes measure electrical currents -- the same currents that are said to measure human emotions, and which are the basis of lie detector circuits. It then converts those vibrations into notes that can be played by synthesizers, computers or even your iPhone.

Most curious of all, perhaps, is that even MIDI Sprout’s creators aren’t sure what to make of their invention. While the “jury’s still out” on what biorhythms signify, the company said, “monitoring the invisible complexities of plant life yields beautiful and intricate data.”

Though perhaps, above all, some people simply want to rock out. Videos on the company’s Kickstarter page show users clutching wired-up apples -- as well as one another’s hands -- grinning in bewildered awe at the sounds that happen to spring forth.

And in one hilarious scene, a set of band equipment -- drums, keyboard and all -- is manned not by musicians but by a single potted plant.

Plant lovers, act fast: while MIDI Sprout has already surpassed its $25,000 goal, fundraising is coincidentally -- or maybe not -- slated to end on April 20.

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at or by telling us in the comments below.

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