CHI 2015: This tree plays music

At the Computer-Human Interaction Conference in Seoul, researchers from MIT are showing off a tree that makes all kinds of noises.

They call it a ListenTree, and it’s designed to encourage people to get up close and personal with trees. And maybe even make them into tree huggers.

This ficus tree has been upgraded with simple technology that results in smiles on people’s faces.

You can hear a little bit of sound from a few meters away, enough to prompt you to lean in under the branches and put your ear to the trunk. The tree plays music or ambient sounds from urban and natural environments.

The technology is simple: by attaching an exciter-transducer to the base of the tree, it can channel vibrations through the roots, trunk and branches – similar to bone conduction.

The sound selection can be wirelessly controlled from a linked tablet.

While this indoor version requires electricity off the grid, the system can also run on solar power that charges a battery. It was previously demonstrated in Mexico and Canada.

One of the best things about the tree is that it takes requests, as long as the researchers are around with the controller tablet, that is.

And since we’re only a hop skip and a jump away from Seoul’s Gangnam district, no points for guessing what’s at the top of the tree hit parade.

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