If there's one thing I quickly realized about rainy days when your own two feet are your main source of transportation, it's that you don't want to be listening to music on your iPhone in a torrential downpour. Take a minute to lower your eyes to switch the song or check Google Maps and risk being drenched by an unobservant taxi driver speeding through a profound puddle—you can kiss your music (and other phone functionalities) goodbye. But there's something about walking outside on a rainy day that calls for a soundtrack. Maybe it's the desire to be mentally removed from the situation or the necessity for some adrenaline-pumping jams to get through the mess. Either way, the Radio Poncho concept from Carnegie Mellon University student Liana Kong is a welcome alternative.
Designed for an Experimental Form class, Kong incorporates music listening into the traditional poncho form (much to the satisfaction of our waterlogged technology budgets). Not only is it aesthetically bright solution to keeping our tech safe and sound—another thing we don't get enough of on gloomy days—it also keeps us attached to the environment some of us are looking to escape. "The key point in my concept was to stay connected to one's surroundings while listening to and enjoying music in harmony with the rain, sans earbuds or headphones which create walls to the outside," Kong says on her website.
The way the wearer interacts with the music is the best part of this design. Once the hood is pulled up onto the head, the tunes start. Adjusting the length of the drawstrings affects the volume of the music. All of the buttons are assigned radio "channels" and can be changed by buttoning and unbuttoning the poncho. Here's a video of the raincoat in action:
One potential downfall: You might be a little out of luck if your favorite station falls in the middle of the coat and you're looking to stay dry. Minor technicalities aside, the finished project—which features an Arduino Uno, an FM tuner and a flexible speaker—is pretty cool. In a write-up on Adafruit, Kong describes where the idea came from: "I was sitting in a computer lab with my friend drawing and brainstorming on a whiteboard when, in defeat, I doodled a funny person in a poncho," she says. "I jokingly said, 'What if I made a radio poncho?' But then, it actually became a real thing and I just ran with it."
Check out more of Kong's work here.