Natalia Rodriguez is a tech-girl minus the dragon tattoo. When she’s not telling stories about people in technology, she’s roaming the nation trying to redefine the way we look at beauty. Noob today, pro tomorrow, she reports on the journey of self-taught programming and would love to talk to you about anything that makes you tick on Twitter.

All of our gadgets are glass, metal, and plastic. Wouldn’t it be nicer to interact with a computing device that was alive and real?

After watching this video we went to see a talk by Ivan Poupyrev,former head of Disney Research, at Maker Faire in NYC.

When we got back, we whipped up four touch-sensitive plants that can be played like musical instruments. Real plants. Ones that need water and the sun for food and grow out of the dirt from little seeds. Our goal was to someday have people say things like “I’m mellow, I play the bamboo.” Or, “I am hardcore so I play the cactus.”

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How The Musical Plant Works

The plants we hacked play different notes depending how they are grabbed. For example, when someone touches the stem the note is different than when they touch its outer leaves. When grabbed with two fingers instead of one, the sounds are different; same goes for other hand positions.

We reproduced a version of Disney’s “Touche,” the technology Poupyrev and his team built to encode the frequencies that conductive materials like water, human bodies, and plants, among other materials carry whenever they are touched by a human. The process was much like the one that allows your smartphone to be touch sensitive.

We build a Touche from a tutorial by Mads HoBye, Instructables’ artist-in-residence, who hacked his own version using a small Arduino.

A Breakdown Of Touche With Arduino

Before jumping into the gritty detail of our project, we break down the code from the Instructable you will use to build a Touche shield.

The “Touche Arduino” is made of three components–the circuit board that amplifies the current caused by human touch, the Arduino which encodes this current as raw data, and Processing, which receives the data and parses it as an array of 160 frequencies via serial connection. A serial message sends sequential data one bit at a time, over a communication channel like a USB port.

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