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Play with your Food: Turning Banana into Keyboard

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Creativity leads to innovations. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in one of its programme tried to make children learn about the fruits and vegetables and their importance in our life. By using electrodes, Banana was used as the keyboard, wherein by touching the banana the sound like piano came out. Just by touching the banana, desired sound comes out.  

The basic kit comprises of - a USB cable and a bespoke circuit board with alligator clips attached to it. The circuit board is programmed to replace a standard computer keyboard. 

Once the board has been connected to a PC or a laptop through USB, the alligator clips can be linked to any object that conducts electricity. 

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, both 32 years old, were searching for a way to turn everyday objects into touchpads. They then developed a kit named MakeyMakey, which can turn fruit, animals and even humans into keyboards. When asked about the safety concerns,  Rosenbaum said the amount of current used in the equipment was very small and not detectable when the kit was connected to the human body or animals. He said fuses had been incorporated into the board as well as the USB port to ensure safety. 

Silver said the possibilities were infinite, from connecting a broccoli head to run Skype to creating an interactive music floor. Even his cat was part of the experiment. "Cats are conductive on their foot pads, their ears, their nose, and their mouth. But their fur is not conductive." 

According to Rosenbaum, they managed to turn 2 of his friends into sound machines, a beach-ball into a game controller and have used a cup of milk to make music. "A father is currently turning it into a computer interface for his son who is suffering from cerebral palsy. We call this Hackcess." 

Silver and Rosenbaum came up with the idea on a road trip in California 2 years back. Rosenbaum, a self-taught programmer with an academic background in education, said the pair wanted to change the way people relate to technology. "It's easy for kids to get turned off by science and maths, because of the way it is taught. We wanted to make it easier for people to use engineering as a tool to fuel creativity." 

About 150 beta-versions of the kit have been made available to test-users and Ann Marie Thomas, based in Minneapolis, was among the first to try it out. She says even her 4-year-old daughter has managed to connect the kit without any help. "My kids love it. My daughter was able to plug it in and set it up. She has tried tin foil and playdough and has even managed to connect herself to the kit." Ms Thomas, a former professor of engineering, trains future engineering teachers and thinks the kit has a lot of potential for use in schools. 

"We hope to develop a community of people using MaKeyMaKey and sharing their ideas and inventions with each other. We have lots of ideas for extensions and add-ons." 

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