I’ve never stopped being a kid, so “indulging your inner child” or other gratuitous excuses for adults doing fun things seem totally silly to me. Admittedly I haven’t had a mashed potato-throwing fight in a long time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do cartwheels down the sidewalk, make a beeline for the stacks of wood blocks in the toy store, and plaster myself with 25¢ temporary tattoos.
So offer me a combination of Jell-O molding, poking squishy things with my fingers, and crazy noises and I am all in! Playing with your food doesn’t get much better than this . . .
Noisy Jelly was created by Raphaël Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard, students at Les Ateliers-Paris Design Institute [École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle]. To play, you dissolve a bit of agar agar powder in water in a mold and add the provided food coloring; ten minutes later your jelly is ready to rock! With the jelly on the game board, you can prod, pinch, and smush to your heart’s content, each touch inducing different sounds.
To get technical, the game board is a capacitive sensor — a thin piece of wood lined with metal foil hooked up to an Arduino — and the jellies are nodes of varying conductances — determined by the different salt concentrations in each color as well as the molded shape. Touching the jelly modulates the capacitance detected by the Arduino, and this signal is then translated into sound via Max/MSP [a “visual programming language” with an add-on to allow the manipulation of digital audio signals in realtime – don’t ask me how to use it].
I love this! You can’t have survived to whatever age you are without having made a tray of Jell-O jigglers, waggled one in someone else’s face, and pretended it was a slice of brain or an alien tentacle. Now not only is the jelly alive, it talks back to you! It’s playful, it’s sciencey, it works like magic, and it has the irresistible mystique of something that doesn’t quite fit into our familiar physical world. Forget volcano kits or writing my own mobile app, I’m putting this next on the DIY list!