What’s the Latest Development?
Presented at this week’s Ars Electronica festival in Austria: A technology from Pittsburgh’s Disney Research that transmits sound through human touch. A person using Ishin-Den-Shin — named after a Japanese mantra representing unspoken mutual understanding — speaks into a standard microphone, which is then converted into an inaudible signal that becomes audible when the speaker touches another person’s earlobe, “effectively whispering a message into that person’s ear.” The sound can pass from body to body via any physical contact, but it can only be heard by the person whose earlobe is being touched. The technology won an honorable mention at the festival.
What’s the Big Idea?
While it’s not clear how Ishin-Den-Shin might be used in environments other than parties — a less-breathy version of the Telephone Game, for example — using the human body to conduct sound has become more common in recent years. One of the more popular methods, bone conduction, brings sound directly to the inner ear through bones in the skull, and is found in some headphones and hearing aids as well as Google Glass. Disney Research’s system uses an electrostatic field that forms around the speaker’s skin and produces a vibration when it comes into contact with the listener’s earlobe.
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