Gadgets: Synthesising the sound of bananas


Assumedly, the main purpose of a banana (cucumber, zucchini, etc) is to be relished at some stage. Yet, young American inventors Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have contrived a new means of putting them to use: by eliciting from them authentic musical sounds, like for instance, those of a piano.

A dollop of wobbly jello does work as well and a great number of other materials also prove to be conductive: most fruits and vegetables, shrimp or pizza pie (although some may consider that a bit yucky). Plants will do fine and play-doh (given a certain degree of moisture) and metal objects such as foil, cutlery or pots. Even simple thick lines drawn on a smooth surface with a soft graphite pencil can do the trick – so can live people. What in God’s name are we talking about? A kit called MaKey MaKey.

Usually,’s policy is not to move consumer products into the limelight within regular coverage. Albeit, there have to be exceptions to the rule when what has been thrown on the market is too original not to be shared. And when its great fun for kids and grown-ups alike and could simultaneously qualifiy for serious corporate team building activities.

The MaKey MaKey kit

The kit comes with board, a set of alligator clips, six connector wires, a USB cable, 20 colour stickers, instructions and documentation. Using regular PCs, it can be reliably operated with Windows, Mac, Chromebook and most members of the Linux family. Tablets and mobile devices may work if they support a USB keyboard or mouse.

Craft materials recommended by the inventors

„When you’re inventing, anything goes! … Inflatable beach balls, paper plates, cardboard boxes, various types of soft and rigid foam, lego bricks, plastic storage boxes, stuffed animals and other toys, funny hats and other pieces of clothing, sheets of fabric, string, yarn, elastic, and paper.

It’s also important to have around some tools for cutting, like scissors and exacto knives, and ways to stick things together, like hot glue, superglue, various kinds of tape, and clips or clamps.“

Instructions on how set up the kit and detailed info on everything else there’s to know is indicated on the supplier’s website.

A touch board drawn with pencil.

Even the mere graphite of a pencil acts as a conductor.

Bright minds teaming up

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have both been working with invention kits for the last decade. Eric, a doctoral student in the Lifelong Kindergarten group, creates new technologies at the intersection of music, improvisation, play and learning. Jay, who lives in Florida, is founder/CEO of JoyLabz/MakeyMakey. When a PhD student at MIT Media Lab, he won a Lemelson-MIT Award for Invention and Innovation.

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum

Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum

Images courtesy of ©MaKey MaKey.