Bored by buttons and pads? Want something a bit more organice? BeetBox turns root vegetables into interactive percussion instruments, finally answering the question of “how can I work musical controllers into my five a day?”

BeetBox is a simple instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets. It is powered by a Raspberry Pi with a capacitive touch sensor and an audio amplifier in a handmade wooden enclosure.

The project is the work of Scott Garner:
Interactive > BeetBox

Okay, maybe it’s not the most practical idea ever, but it is good fun. And that poplar case and all-in-one design are especially nice. BeetBox also illustrates just how cool something like the Raspberry Pi is. By virtue of its low price and small size, the Pi proves the days of attaching a project like this to your MacBook laptop are finally over. It also benefits from a very handy capacitive touch breakout board available for just $10 from Sparkfun.

BeetBox from Scott Garner on Vimeo.

I’m hoping to talk more about the Pi soon; at long last, my order from the summer showed up in Berlin and I’ll be back to it post-holidays. (May have to give that Sparkfun board a try, as well!)

And while the beets may seem silly at first, there is something happening with the exploration of new materials. Hardware interaction need not always happen through petroleum-based plastics. openMaterials co-founder Catarina Mota, whose class inspired the project here, is one of the leading advocates not only of open source hardware but thinking about smart materials. Music and sound are natural media by which to test those materials – as I’m fond of saying, from my heavily-biased point of view, the connection of music to real-time perception, expression, and culture make it essential to understanding how technology will work with people.

This piece served both as a project for Catarina Mota‘s Tech Crafts, for which I was experimenting with edible circuits, and as a final for Peter Menderson’s Materials and Building Strategies, for which I wanted to craft a nice hardwood enclosure. Many thanks to both instructors for excellent classes.

Built with Python and Raspberry Pi. Mmmm… beets, raspberries, Pi, this is all sounding delicious. Keep those creations coming. Previously, our favorite Raspberry Pi creation used the device’s small size to run an entire synth inside a controller:

The Awesome New KORG Not From KORG: Raspberry-Pi Plus MS-20 Controller, Making Dreams Reality


Raspberry Pi, Your Next $25 Computer Synth? First Hacks Appearing

BeetBox Demo from Scott Garner on Vimeo.