'Digital vegetables' emit music and light when touched

Small-plot urban farming used to be widespread in Tokyo, but other than specialized projects like the Pasona Urban Farm, there aren't many tomato plots around the city anymore. A Tokyo creative lab called Party has created an art installation that aiming to puts residents literally back in touch with their gardening roots with a digitally-enhanced greenhouse installation called "Digital Vegetables," or "DigiVege" in Japan.

The greenhouse is situated in Tokyo Midtown's garden space as part of the 2017 Design Touch event. The exhibition encourages visitors to touch the greenhouse's seven different vegetables, including cabbages, mini-radishes, carrots and tomatoes. "Start off by touching the seven types of lives now growing strong in the soil," the instructions say.

A touch detection system fires off a light and music show that's different for each vegetable. Sound designer Ray Kunimoto mixed recordings of people rubbing seeds, touching leaves and eating fruit with different orchestral instruments. "Tomatoes are violin, carrots are trumpet, cabbages are oboe, mini radishes are flute, sweet potatoes are piano, eggplants are harp and pumpkins are clarinet," the website explains.

The effect is to sort of anthropomorphize the veggies, assigning each different visual and auditory characteristics. That helps visitors to look at them in a new way and not just see them as food. The other aim, of course, is to attract visitors to the Design Touch event and get them to touch, smell and experience organic food in an otherwise non-organic environment.

The exhibition is free and open until November 4th if you happen to be in Tokyo. To get the full effect you'll want to visit it by night in order to see the dazzling, animated lighting effects. As shown in a Facebook post below, by day it looks pretty much like a regular greenhouse.