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Jack Ramage
16 April 2024, 12:54

Bionic robot arm lets plants play musical instruments

The machine will make its live debut at Castlehead Viaduct later this month

Bionic robot arm lets plants play musical instruments

A machine that allows a living plant to "play" a musical instrument has been invented. 

Developed by Manchester-based musicians known as Bionic and the Wires, the group will debut their performance featuring the "bionic robot arm" and a plant at the city’s Castlehead Viaduct venue on 20th April. 

According to a press release, Bionic and the Wires, led by Andy Kidd on the keyboard and Jon Ross on the plants via the robot arm, combines botanical rhythms with atmospheric textures and soundscapes created by synthesisers. The art is intended to encourage “new ways of thinking about the natural world”. 

The invention operates by harnessing the electrical bio-signals generated by natural processes such as photosynthesis observed in plants. Sensors are attached to the plant leaves to capture these pulses, which are subsequently transformed into electricity to power the robotic arm. 

The machine builds upon previous inventions by the duo, such as Plantwave, which was developed a few years ago. This bionic robot arm invention, however, enables the plant to directly "play" musical instruments such as the steel handpan drum and the violin. 

Speaking on the new invention, Jon Ross said: “We’ve spent many months researching and developing the new bionic robot arms. It’s exciting to think that with this invention we may have opened up the opportunity for a whole new genre of music. Maybe it’s called bionica!?”

Tickets for the upcoming gig at Castehead Viaduct are available now. You can secure yours here.

Last year, sound artist Jeff Rice captured the sound of the heaviest living organism on earth, Pando, a natural colossus in the form of an aspen grove. You can listen to that here.

Earlier this year, a music festival where guests are invited to plant trees took place in Thailand.