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Berlin-based hackers create musical umbrella


July 1, 2012

The musical umbrella was created by Berlin-based Alice Zappe and Julia Lager

The musical umbrella was created by Berlin-based Alice Zappe and Julia Lager

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During this year’s Amsterdam-based Music Hack Day, two intrepid hackers originating from Berlin created a musical umbrella that produces a random series of lo-fi 8-bit tones. The tones are triggered by raindrops striking the outside surface of the umbrella's canopy and the abstract results bring to mind a warped soundtrack for the first generation Nintendo Game Boy.

Put simply, the musical umbrella works as follows: When raindrops strike the outside surface of the umbrella canopy, they are converted to tones by the the presence of twelve piezo pickup sensors which are taped to the underside of the umbrella and respond to vibration. The piezo’s are then fed into an Arduino Uno - an inexpensive and open source micro-controller popular with hackers and hobbyists, which is in turn connected to two speakers.

The Music Hack Day event was first held in the London offices of U.K. newspaper The Guardian in 2009 and has since spread to Berlin, Amsterdam, Boston, Stockholm, San Francisco, Barcelona, New York and Montreal, drawing over two thousand participants and sponsorship from some heavy hitting music-tech companies. Each of this year’s events are now over, though those interested in attending next year can sign up by visiting the Music Hack Day website.

There’s no word as to whether the musical umbrella is ever intended to be sold, but according to the BBC the umbrella’s creators, Alice Zappe and Julia Lager, have decided to create a new and improved version of their Music Hack Day prototype. This new iteration will introduce wires and sensors that are sewn into the canopy, rather than gaffer-taped on, in addition to providing a wider sonic palette to choose from.

To see the musical umbrella in action, check out the video below.

Source: Nukaco via: BBC

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Cool idea, but they need to change the tones so they're a little less annoying.


Excellent gentlemen excellent,now we can begin phase 2. A filter located in the stem of the brolly as we say here in the good old UK which will allow us to drink rain water via a straw at the handle, and they called me mad?

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