Toronto: Forget ordinary loudspeakers in your vicinity. Here comes an interactive loudspeaker that can take the shape of anything, from a rubber ducky to an abstract spiral!
Scientists at Disney Research, Pittsburgh have developed methods using a 3D printer to produce such electrostatic loudspeakers.
The simple speakers require little assembly, but even those few manual steps might be eliminated in the future.
“In five to 10 years, a 3D printer capable of using conductive materials could create the entire piece,” predicted Yoshio Ishiguro, a post-doctoral associate at Disney Research.
The speakers are based on electrostatic speaker technology that was first explored in the early 1930s, but never widely adopted.
This type of speaker is simpler than conventional electromagnetic speakers and includes no moving parts, which makes it suitable for producing with a 3D printer.
An electrostatic speaker consists of a thin, conductive diaphragm and an electrode plate, separated by a layer of air.
An audio signal is amplified to high voltage and applied to the electrode.
As the electrode charges, an electrostatic force develops between it and the diaphragm, causing the diaphragm to deform and produce sound as the audio signal changes.
“This type of speaker has relatively little bass response, but does a good job of producing high-frequency sounds, such as chirping birds, computer-generated blips and even the human voice,” Ishiguro indicated.
Sound reproduction of up to 60 decibels is possible - an appropriate level for small objects.
“What is more, it can generate sound across the entire face of the speaker,” Ishiguro noted.
The speakers can be built with any number or configuration of electrodes.
“Placing multiple electrodes in a curved speaker, for instance, makes it possible to vary the direction of the sound emitted,” the researchers added.
The method, developed by Ishiguro and Ivan Poupyrev, a former principal research scientist at Disney Research, is scheduled to be presented at Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in Toronto Tuesday.