Singing Roads in Japan

Posted by: Helen Walters on November 15, 2007

Weird. This story in the UK’s Guardian caught my eye. A team of engineers in Japan has developed a system whereby a car becomes the bow to a road’s violin. So-called ‘melody roads’ are inset with a series of grooves cut at very specific distances — to create different notes as you drive across them. There are three such roads in Japan to date, one of which ‘plays’ a well known Japanese pop song.

According to the Guardian: “the system was the brainchild of Shizuo Shinoda, who accidentally scraped some markings into a road with a bulldozer before driving over them and realising that they helped to produce a variety of tones.”

Accidental innovation: I love it. Then my mind starts buzzing with all sorts of potential advertising/branding ideas guaranteed to drive a driver nuts. (Just like those mythic ‘blipverts’ of years ago were meant to brainwash cinema goers into thinking ‘Ooh, I fancy a Coke’, this could force drivers to pull over for an emergency Big Mac. No one would ever get anywhere). But then here’s the kicker. You have to drive at exactly the right speed — 28 mph — to hear the tune as it’s meant to sound. And chances are that’s not the speed you’ll be driving at. Which means either a squeaky goblin or a deep-voiced Satan will be urging you to go buy food, which might not be so effective. But still. It’s a thought-provoking idea.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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