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A Hybrid Phone-Synth For Generating Algorithmic Prank Calls

There’s little more annoying than picking up the phone to a cacophony of dial tones, or the irritatingly soothing Muzak of an automated recording. More often than not, you’re being slapped with the gas bill or duped by a robot telemarketer. Now, thanks to mastermind Russian media artist Dmitry Morozov, there’s also the possibility that you’re being prank-called by a hybrid phone-synth machine named Prankophone.

Morozov–a self-described “engineer of strange-sounding mechanisms”–made the device by hacking together a synthesizer, telephone, and logic module. Depending on the mode it’s set on, Prankophone can call a preprogrammed number or dial a number at random. When the unsuspecting recipient picks up, the synthesizer begins to play as the machine algorithmically generates a melody based on the tones of the phone number.

“Nowadays it’s averting to hear in the phone receiver any sound other than human voice–music means that we have to wait for the answer of the operator, strange electronic noises imply some mistake in decoding,” Morozov writes on his site. “Thus the sound from Prankophone would be perceived as some kind of mistake, though in reality it is an individual and anonymous sound message, a micro-noise piece which is unique for each number it managed to reach.”

Inspired by the first-ever electronic instrument, called the Musical Telegraph, and the Morse code of professional telegraphs, the Prankophone’s sound algorithm draws from short intonated phrases, making the end result resemble synthetic speech. Whether this sounds like a stroke of brilliance or one of the most annoying inventions in history, it’s hard to deny that it’s an ingenious way to repurpose a nearly obsolete technology (the landline).

The Prankophone is currently on exhibition in a gallery space in Portugal. See more at Morozov’s website.

[via Prosthetic Knowledge]

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