There have been some good creative packaging on CDs this year. My favorite may be the functional CD tray of Moldover’s Album. The Awesome Edition comes with a circuit board in lieu of the standard jewel case tray. The artwork and track listing are traces on the board, which is cool, but the great thing is that the board has a battery, speaker, two photo sensors, and a NE556 timing chip, all wired together to make a light-activated theremin of sorts. It’s definitely pricey, but it’s very cool.
Tristan Perich did an “album” called 1-Bit Music a while ago that consisted of a sound chip, “track” button, battery, volume knobs, and a headphone jack, attached to a plastic sheet which fits inside a jewel case. There is no CD; all the music is contained on the chip.
The possibilities are endless, and these types of interactive musical toys involve the listener in ways a linear CD cannot. It doesn’t take much to make a fun electronic noisemaker, but with relatively cheap micro controllers, much more sophisticated and interactive noisemakers are possible. These two simple electronic noisemakers are just the tip of the iceberg.
With the current DIY/Maker renaissance, it’s a safe bet that incredible things are on their way. No matter what it is, if you can dream it up, it’s easier than ever to design it. If you can’t get instructions on Make Magazine or Instructables, there are hacker spaces all over the world where communities of makers can help you figure it out.