Disney designs special device that transmit sounds via fingertips

It could be the latest contraption from James Bond’s gadget collection, used to collect secret data from the KGB, but as those boffins at Disney have released details to the media, we think probably not. We think it would have been a success though. It is a special device that allows sound to be transmitted through the human body, via the fingertips.

© Disney Research

© Disney Research

Disney uses the Ishin-Den-Shin technology to record sound, using a standard microphone, which it then converts to an inaudible signal and is transmitted through the body of the person who is actually holding the microphone.

When this person then touches someone’s ear, this forms a speaker of sorts, and the sound now changes from inaudible to audible and the receiver person can hear it.

Unfortunately, if Disney did want to sell this technology to spies or secret organisations around the world, they will have a problem as the device received major media attention in the form of an honorary mention at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz in Austria, this week.

© Disney Research

© Disney Research

The device was developed at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, works with the special microphone that actually records sounds and then transmits then through touching the body. Once the sound has been recorded the device transforms it into an inaudible sound, and the only way it can then be heard is is when the person holding the microphone touches someone else’s ear. It is as if the fingers are whispering the secret recorded sounds from person to person.

It consists of a microphone that can record sounds and transmit them through touch. Once recorded, the sound is transformed in an inaudible signal. This signal is transmitted to a person’s body when holding the microphone. The signal can be transmitted by physical contact, from body to body. The recorded sound becomes audible only when touching someones ear. The sound can be heard only by the specific ear which is touched, as if the finger would be whispering the recorded sounds. Secrets, messages and whispers can then be transmitted from person to person in physical contact with each others. Bodies become a broadcasting medium for intimate, physical, sound communication.

Disney say on their website: “When touching another person’s ear, this modulated electrostatic field creates a very small vibration of the earlobe. As a result, both the finger and the ear together form a speaker, that makes the signal audible for the person touched. The inaudible signal can be transmitted from body to body, using any sort of physical contact.”

The technology is similar to that used for Google Glass, called Bone conduction, as it transmits sound through to the inner ear via the bones of the skull.

Trevor Cox, who is a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford says: “You can of course transmit signals through the body because it can conduct electricity, “but I don’t know quite what they are going to do with this.” he added: “It would be almost magical and appear to come from nowhere.”

Ishin-Den-Shin is a Japanese mantra that translates as, “What the mind thinks, the heart transmits,” and represents a feeling of empathy or sympathy.