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These Tiny, Stretchy Speakers and Microphones Let Your Skin Play Music

If you are prone to forget your headphones, you will be delighted to know that new wearable technology that could turn your skin into a speaker would soon become a reality. Created mainly to help speech- and hearing-impaired people, the new “smart skin” could be easily embedded into the ears, or into a patch on the throat. A similar system which is described in the study acts as a microphone. It can be connected to a device and system to unlock the voice activated security system.

In order to build speakers and the microphones that will be thinner than a temporary tattoo, the researchers needed to design electronics that are flexible enough to stretch and bend with the skin, without losing their capacity to conduct heat and electricity, which are necessary to transmit audio signals.

After testing different types of materials, the scientist settled on grids of tiny wires which are painted with polymer layers.  The wires were transparent, stretchy, and capable of conducting sound signals.

After getting the electric audio signals from the music player, the loudspeaker heats up the wire to a temperature of 33 C, which then replicates the sound pattern by changing the pressure of the air. Our ear picks up these changes in air pressure as sound waves.

The researchers have tested the microphone by asking four people to unlock a smartphone with the help of a voice recognition software. Out of these four subjects, only one was a registered user. Over ten trials, the system was able to recognize the correct voice more than 98% of the time.

The researchers say that the next step will be to improve the sound quality and volume of the tiny speakers, and the accuracy of the microphone in detecting speech and differentiating between different voices. They also want to come up with better materials for mass manufacturing. Till the time, these speakers become available in the market, make sure to hold those headphones on your way out to the door.

Picture Credits: ScienceMag



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