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The Dish

BeetBox: Make Music with Beets

BeetBox is a simple instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets.

Powered by a Raspberry Pi with a capacitive touch sensor and audio amplifier in a wooden enclosure, the BeetBox is the latest vegetable-powered electronics available today that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets.

“BeetBox is primarily an exploration of perspective and expectations,” said Designer Scott Garner. “I’m particularly interested in creating complex technical interactions in which the technology is invisible—both in the sense that the interaction is extremely simple and in the literal sense that no electronic components can be seen.”

“Through most of the twentieth century, our view of "the future" was all about buttons and screens and cold, sterile environments, but humans seem to want warmth and texture and color at a very fundamental level,” he told Design with Benefits. “I believe the real trend moving forward will be less apparent technology instead of increasingly intrusive technology and I think the movement in that direction has already begin.

With a long history as a software developer, Scott has done a fair amount of work that deals with challenging expectations, and often these projects begin with a simple phrase. In this case, he was looking to start a project with an edible component that created music, and the idea of “beat” vs. “beat” was a perfect fit, according to Garner.

The creation of BeetBox was not without challenges, however. The most difficult hurdles were not technical issues, but rather had to do with creativity and process.

“Once I completed the first working prototype, I was very tempted to move on to other projects because I'd more or less gotten the idea out of my system and I had common creative doubts, like, "What if people just think it's silly?" Scott said. “The prototype got a very positive response among my peers, though, and I decided to carry it through to the end.”

Using the capacitive touch sensor, Scott created an enclosure from .5″x8″ poplar boards sealed in polyurethane. The board communicates with a Python script on a Raspberry Pi via I2C. The script essentially watches for new touches and using pygame, triggers drum beats upon touching a beet. The audio comes from a small amplifier built into the unit that’s connected to a salvaged speaker mounted under the holes on the lid.

“I've learned a lot from people that have been very open about sharing their process and this is definitely an area where I try to give back," he said.

Scott pushes the boundary of creativity, proving that playing with your food isn’t necessarily bad.