About this project
Our vision is to give people the ability to convert the activities of plants into music. Anybody with a computer or synthesizer can use MIDI Sprout to investigate the secret life of plants.
MIDI Sprout represents a growing community interested in learning about nature by turning its biofeedback into music. This is the beginning of the global DIY biofeedback movement.
We have had a lot of fun exploring the role of biorhythms in art and music. It’s time to share this technology with the public and invite new innovators to the conversation. By donating to this Kickstarter you will make the MIDI Sprout hardware available to people of all ages, locations, and backgrounds.
How it works
Each MIDI Sprout comes with two probes that measure small electrical currents across the surface of a plant's leaf. When applied to a human this is called the galvanic skin response (GSR). GSR readings provide insight into humans’ inner emotional states and are the basis of simple lie detector circuits.
The MIDI Sprout converts these fluctuations into MIDI notes and controls that can be read by synthesizers and computers. This information can be scaled and played through synthesizers or used to activate pre-programmed sonic environments.
What does this actually tell us about the secret life of plants?
We don’t know. Nobody does. Jury’s still out on this one. Using human medical equipment on plants to investigate the complexity of their being is a fascination started by Christopher Bird and Peter Tomkins’ seminal book, The Secret Life of Plants. Whether or not these micro activities reveal a hidden consciousness in plant life is yet to be determined.
But what we do know is that monitoring the invisible complexities of plant life yields beautiful and intricate data that can be harnessed for elaborate biofeedback art. By spending time with your plants as they play music, music that is an expression of their physiological changes, you’ll find that your plants are as perceptive of their surroundings as you are. Maybe even more.
The MIDI Sprout can connect your plant to a variety of devices.
We offer a USB-MIDI interface so you can connect it directly to your computer.
We offer an iOS to MIDI package so you can make music with plants through your iPhone and iPad
We offer a Jam Pack including a Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano MIDI so you can get a nice new little synth to play with your plant. We also offer a Performance Pack including the Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano with a USB to MIDI converter so you can scale your MIDI on a computer before sending it to the Pocket Piano.
You can also connect MIDI Sprout to any synthesizer with a MIDI input, like this Moog Slim Phatty.
An important question that comes up a lot is whether or not the MIDI Sprout can be used to sonify humans. The answer is absolutely! Here's a video of Greg Fox hooked up the MIDI Sprout and controlling synthesizers and video projections while he drums:
There's so much you can do, get creative!
A very early version of the MIDI Sprout was used to sonify ice cream! Here's a video from the WHYY Philadelphia news network:
MIDI Sprout Tech Specs
The MIDI Sprout is currently displayed as a fully functioning prototype. It produces notes on Channel 1 with 8 note polyphony, accompanied by a Control Number 70. The case that encloses the MIDI Sprout in the video is also a prototype, the final design will be more compact.
The MIDI Sprout kit consists of the following components: ATtiny2313 microcontroller, 555 timer, jumper wires, breadboard, battery box, MIDI port, LEDs, knob, electrodes with 1/8" plug, 1/8" jack, instruction manual, resistors and capacitors. Enclosure is not included in the kit version.
January – Late April:
Research manufacturing partners for enclosure and circuit boards.
Early to Mid-May: Finalize enclosure and circuit board design, establish final BOM.
Late May to Late June: Establish enclosure and circuit board manufacturing partners.
January through Late July:
Finalize firmware – threshold algorithm,
March through August: Partner testing firmware using prototypes
Mid to Late August: Beta short run
Early to Mid September: Final quality check of boards, enclosures and assembly process.
Full run, Assembly, Quality Testing and review of fully assembled MIDI Sprout
Risks and challenges
There are always risks moving from a prototype to a production run, many that are out of our hands. Through meticulous planning and communication with our partners, we look to minimize these risks and ensure timely delivery.
A major challenge in this project is sourcing all the materials locally and sustainably, particularly the casing. Data Garden was founded with an interest in eliminating the needless plastic waste of CDs and records for music distribution. In the same spirit, we look to develop this hardware with biodegradable corn plastic wherever possible, with particular attention to the enclosure. Through connections from our team of industrial designers we we are looking to find an affordable and sustainable supply of corn plastic for this purpose.
We have the people in place to meet the manufacturing demands on our own for up to 300 units. If we sell between 300-499, we will need to expand our team a bit and if we sell over 500, we will be able to outsource manufacturing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
What you see in the video is a prototype in a generic box. The final product will have the same functionality with a more sleek and attractive design.
The MIDI Sprout 1.0 ($95) is the product described in the video and ships as a fully built, complete usable product in November.
The Kit ($60) comes with all the components (minus a case) to assemble your own MIDI Sprout. It uses a solderless breadboard meaning that no special skills like soldering are required. It ships out in November.
The Developers Kit ($200) will be the components of the build-it-yourself Kit but sent out early, June, to allow developers the opportunity to assemble it and share their feedback in order to start an online community of developers.
Yes, but MIDI Sprout requires a MIDI to USB interface to be connected to a computer. If you don’t have one, we include one at the $140, $165 and $450 pledge levels. We will provide links to free MIDI software and sound palettes designed by our team of artists so that you can plug and play your plant with very little set-up time.
The MIDI Sprout also connects to your iPhone or iPad with the iOS to MIDI adapter offered at the $150 level.
If you’d rather connect your MIDI Sprout to a synth but don’t own one, we include a Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano at the $420 and $450 levels.
No. In the documentation coming with the MIDI Sprout, we will provide links to free MIDI software and patches for that software designed by our team of sound artists. This way, you can plug and play your plant the day your MIDI Sprout arrives!
The iOS converter in the video shows a connection for earlier iPhones. Do you offer an iOS converter for iPhone 5?
Yes! If you order the $150 reward level with the iOS converter, we will contact you after the Kickstarter is complete to specify which connector you would like.
The Kits ($60 reward) will require more time for us to package, ship and support than the MIDI Sprout 1.0 itself ($95 reward) so we want to ensure we won’t be overwhelmed by demand. We are making a limited number of Kits available for programmers and developers who want to understand the mechanism behind MIDI Sprout technology. After all, we launched this Kickstarter in the hopes of making it possible to produce the final, fully built MIDI Sprout (the $95 reward).
Yes. Part of the Kickstarter funds will go to establishing an online forum for MIDI Sprout users to share their experiences, ask questions, and post music they’ve made and experienced with their MIDI Sprout.
Unfortunately, Kickstarter does not allow the bundling of hardware products. This is a decision they made to prevent companies from using the site as a storefront for already developed, pre-packaged hardware.
That said, we do offer a WORKSHOP PACK ($500) and an EDUCATOR PACK ($950). These packs include the parts to assemble multiple kits. They are intended for educational use but if you would like to purchase one of these packs with the intent of assembling multiple MIDI Sprout kits for your own use, please GO FOR IT!
No. MIDI Sprout must be connected to a synthesizer or a computer to produce sound.
November unless you get the developers kit which will ship in June.
We would love to, but we need to show that there's enough demand. We can not guarantee that MIDI Sprout will be available beyond the pre-orders purchased during this Kickstarter. That's why it's so important that you get one of these units while you can. If we reach $100k, we can start thinking about mass-production and retail distribution. So, pre-order a MIDI Sprout today and help us get this out to more people!
First, we don’t recommend attaching the MIDI Sprout to animals that have not consented to participating in your musical performances. That said, if you have a hairless cat that would like to play a MIDI Sprout, go for it! Since the MIDI Sprout reads Galvanic Skin Response, you won’t get much of a signal if you attach it to fur unless you use a lot of conductive gel and that would get pretty messy.
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