Banana Tone

2020

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic threw everybody into a spin, a spin contained mostly in our homes with finite access to amusement. Enter BUCK’s Creative Technology team and their web-based toy that turns the banal into, well, “Banana Tone.”

What is Banana Tone?

Banana Tone lets you scan, detect, and ultimately DJ with inanimate objects from your surroundings. It basically turns your room into a musical playground.

Cool! But… why?

Look, we were all going a little crazy. You can only binge Downton Abbey so many times before you start talking to your cat in a British accent and demanding that your nonexistent butler serve more crumpets, whatever those are.

BUCK’s CT team wanted to create more ways to interact with their immediate surroundings. It’s a way of rethinking the world around you, adding a new dimension of play to otherwise boring stuff.

So how does it work?

Under Lilyan Kris’s direction, BUCK built Banana Tone for both mobile and desktop users. To start, users can either scan a QR code for the Banana Tone experience on their smartphone, or they can access it manually via the web address on their desktop. The user is then prompted to turn on their camera, and a list of scannable items will appear: keyboard, mouse, monitor, banana... the Bible? You betcha.

Technical bits

The object-recognition component was built using Tensorflow.js, a library for machine learning in Javascript. We also built a synth—yes, a full synth—with tone.js, created with borrowed sounds from Slapstick AR to give Banana Tone its signature sound.

And then?

Once an object is detected, a colorful wiggle spins around it and emits a tone, while the circle at the top of the screen pulses with a corresponding color. As the user adds more objects, new colors emanate from the object and we hear a different tone, creating a prismatic, atmospheric soundscape based sheerly on the number of objects the user scans.