Have you ever seen a set of speakers in the shape of a rubber duck? Well, the staff at Disney Research in Pittsburgh probably even dreams about them at night, as they have been working for a long time at this new type of speakers. Introducing Disney’s latest invention: here are interactive speakers that can be produced in any kind of shape (they don’t have a name yet, we suppose). Apart from the duck shapes they can also be produced in for example the shape of a futuristically looking spiral. The team has used 3D printing techniques to create the speakers.
The team has based their technology for these speakers on electrostatic speaker technology, a method first explored in the early 1930s. It has never been used on a worldwide scale however, but with the contemporary breakthrough of 3D printing techniques this might soon change. The advantage of this 1930s technology to the way speakers are being made today is that they do not use any moving parts. This makes it a lot easier to print them with a 3D printer.
Disney could use this technique to add sound to more of their toys and objects. The technique can also be used for gaming purposes, for instance object identification. In an accompanying video you can see how a ‘speaker duck’ is being pushed towards a screen, after which a virtual duck on the screen becomes bigger. Surely looks amazing, doesn’t it? Another mysteriously handy feature is that the sound quality stays the same when the speaker is being held in someone’s hand.
Right now, the team has to assemble little parts to finally realize the speakers. In a press release however, Yoshio Ishiguro, who works as a post-doctoral associate at Disney Research, predicts that this would not be necessary in the future. “In five to 10 years”, says Ishiguro. “A 3D printer capable of using conductive materials could create the entire piece.” But that could as well be earlier, if you look at recent developments in 3D printing with for instance the Rabbit Proto. This is a 3D printer capable of printing electronically gadgets, by automatically switching between printing plastic and electronic materials.
Credits image: Disney Research Pittsburgh.