This summer we’re traveling around the United States to see what's driving the next generation of American innovation. We’ll be bringing you stories from Kansas City, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans that explore how communities and companies are changing in our own backyards. This is the road less traveled. This is Verge Detours. Check back for new dispatches each Wednesday.

Ivan says the plant’s sound can be changed “leetle bit, but not much.” He says this, giggling, in a Russian accent, excited to show off an invention that may not be new to him, but it’s definitely new to everyone else.

Meet Dr. Ivan Poupyrev — a man who Fast Company named one of the 100 most creative people in the world, a computer science professor at one of the most prominent robotics institutes in the world. He’s a man who discovered a way to make touchscreens tactile. He’s a man who figured out how to make a plant sing. And that’s just in the last year or so.

Ivan is the principal research scientist at the Walt Disney Company, which rents space on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Pittsburgh. A lot of what Ivan does is based on his own creative impulses — whatever he thinks up. But it’s also based on what others suggest.