SCI/TECH/Sound Engineering
"Flower Powered"

Singing flowers, anyone? A Japanese company claims they've developed an audio technology that turns plants and flowers into loudspeakers.

The "Flower Speaker Amplifiers" system was designed by Let's Corporation, a telecom device manufacturer based in Okayama, Japan; the company works with companies like Sony, Panasonic, Canon, NEC, NTT and Docomo.

Making the most of flower power, the system mimics the way traditional audio speakers work - it just uses the surface of flowers to generate sound waves, instead of the more conventional cone made of plastic, metal or paper.

Let's stop and hear the flowers...
[Shown: Flower Speaker Amplifiers prototype, Let's Corporation.]

From "New Scientist": Flowers are inserted into an acrylic "vase" containing a magnetic coil and an oscillating component. Applying an alternating electrical current causes the tube, and the flowers, to vibrate at high speed, producing audible sound.

The company plans to develop versions that include a self-contained FM radio and power source. No word on whether you get Miracle-Gro with that...

On the downside, some skeptics voice doubts that the system would work out.
"New Scientist" interviewed Stanley Lipshitz, an audio researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada; he says speakers normally vibrate rigid material -- using something flexible like a plant would be far less than effective.

So don't get ready for monster rock in the poppy fields just yet.
Not this summer, anyway.

For additional free kicks, sample the Let's Corporation project history list:

Let's develop part of JVC's karaoke system, "Songoku".
Let's develop a tel/fax auto changer and start an OEM business for Panasonic and Canon sales.
Let's develop a satellite FAX system for disaster operations for NEC.

Yes, let's!

[Source: Reuters newswire, New Scientist]

Read more offbeat sci/tech news in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".