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Turn Your Head Into Speakers

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the that-just-doesn't-seem-safe dept.

Music 167

Roland Piquepaille writes "A small company based in Iowa has developed products made with a "smart" metal that can turn your walls or your head into speakers. "Last August, Etrema -- an innovative technology firm nestled in the cornfields of Ames, Iowa -- started selling those chrome discs for $1,500 a pair. Called Whispering Windows, they can turn any wall, window, or drab conference table into a speaker." The author tried the technology, and even if she needed a full bottle of Tylenol after usage, said "it's not every day that your head serves as a piece of stereo equipment." This overview tells you more about this "magic" metal, the Terfenol, which is a combination of terbium and dysprosium. The article also says that we can soon expect pirated versions of Terfenol coming from China."

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FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370710)

This FP dedicated to Jin Wicked and her lazy unemployed ass.

The human stereo (4, Funny)

Adam Jenkins (121697) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370714)

Now if they can just wire the Discman inside your skull someplace too..

Re:The human stereo - Monty Python (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370756)

And now for something completely different... a man with a tape recorder up his nose...

Re:The human stereo (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370832)

This would be the perfect Digital Restrictions Management system for the record labels: pay per listen per person.

Re:The human stereo (4, Funny)

Nucleon500 (628631) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371263)

This is clearly the best technology ever developed, because it can close the analog hole. We can implant two speakers, one for each ear, just inside the skull. Each speaker will have a DAC and a decryptor chip, and a secure digital pathway leading out the ear canal. The pathway will block the ear canal to restrict unauthorized listening. The speakers will connect to a wearable Microsoft Music Center device, which will manage the user's listening rights. Later versions might include a microphone, so that the user can listen to sounds in the environment, after a short delay to ensure they aren't watermarked.

Although some cyber-terrorists may consider this a drastic method, it's the only way to protect the content industries, which are vital to America's economy, from rampant piracy and theft. Therefore, I'm proposing legislation requiring these devices to be implanted in each child before they turn two. Please join my crusade of consumer protection and write your congressman today!

Dimensional Warp Generator Needed (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370715)


I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me. I am going to need a new DWG unit, prefereably the rechargeable AMD wrist watch model with the GRC79 induction motor, four I80200 warp stabilizers, 512GB of SRAM and the menu driven GUI with front panel XID display.

I will take whatever model you have in stock, as long as its received certification for being safe on carbon based life forms.

In terms of payment: I dont have any Galactic Credits left. Payment can be made in platinum gold or 2003 currency upon safe delivery of unit. Please transport unit in either a brown paper bag or box to below coordinates on Sunday July 27th at (exactly 3:00pm) Eastern Stand Time. If you miss this timeframe please email me.

##.####### & Longitude ##.####### and the ground is ###.#' above sea level.

Although those coordinates are a secure guarded area, these channels through email are never secure. Unfortunately it is the only form of communication I have right now. There is a good chance that sombody will try to redirect the signal. The unit must be teleported directly in a way that nobody will be able to interfere with the transference.

After unit has been sent please email me at: [mailto] with payment instructions. Do not reply directly back to this email.

Thank You

Re:Dimensional Warp Generator Needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370833)

Dear stranded Time traveler:

We would send the item listed above, but security concerns have prevented anyone from sending out deliveries to that time frame. If you do manage to survive the holacaust, please get in contact with us and we will be happy to send off your dimensional warp generator.

Sorry for any inconvienence, we hope you enjoy your stay.

Brain damage, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370716)

That can't be good...

Who needs this... (0)

hiyahiya (720614) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370719)

I already have a speaker, but its not in my head.

Re:Who needs this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7371449)

It's not? You're odd.

Well... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370721)

I, for one, welcome our new Speaker-Head overlords. Their superior Speaker-Heads alone will be enough to grant world domination.. and..

Mod me as a troll, but this one has to be said.. What the FUCK were they thinking?

Re:Well... (-1)

handybundler (232934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370752)

trolling is dying. you are not helping.

Overrated, or Offtopic maybe, but certainly not a troll.

Bugs Bunny in drag (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370722)

If masturbating to Bugs Bunny in drag [] is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Can I come watch at your house? (-1)

SMOC (703423) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370830)


This group contains adult content.

We're sorry, you have reached an age-restricted area of Yahoo! Groups.

Return to the home page []

Yes that's nice (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370725)

But do they run FreeBSD ?

Been done before? (2, Redundant)

MImeKillEr (445828) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370726)

SoundBug [] .

Ok, so you can't turn your head into a speaker, but you can with practically any smooth surface.

And for a lot less than $1500.

Re:Been done before? (0)

machine of god (569301) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370746)

Yeah but it sounds like crap. It's only decent at medium-low volume and has no bass at all.

Re:Been done before? (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370786)

I'd have to see an actual audio reviewer's impression of the quality, rather than a starstruck reporter -- I suspect that the quality is highly overstated. Certainly most any item can be resonated to become a speaker, and a large resonator plate would be such a method, but any item (like marble) has its own tonal qualities that are absolutely bound to seriously colour music - the idea of just slamming it against drywall or desks sounds like it might not yield the results hinted at here.

Re:Been done before? (5, Informative)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370747)

Acually, the SoundBug uses Terfenol.
Etrema is now trying to secure a major retailer to sell a $300 portable version called the Presenter, aimed at business travelers, that can plug into laptops and give any room a top-quality sound system for presentations. A toy version, the Soundbug, is available for $20 from Amazon and Despite the poorer sound quality, teenage boys seem to like it.

Re:Been done before? (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370926)

Because of the poorer sound quality, teenage boys seem to like it.

If you haven't listens to todays music. Low quality speakers only help make it better.

Re:Been done before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370956)

Acually, the SoundBug uses Terfenol.

Actually, it uses the cheap knock off from China. Way to go!

Re:Been done before? (3, Interesting)

area-k (645298) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370748)

From the Article: "Etrema is now trying to secure a major retailer to sell a $300 portable version called the Presenter, aimed at business travelers, that can plug into laptops and give any room a top-quality sound system for presentations. A toy version, the Soundbug, is available for $20 from Amazon and Despite the poorer sound quality, teenage boys seem to like it" Have you ever heard the SoundBug? It sounds like the cheap plastic it is. I think there is a huge market for the ability to turn various items into a quality audio transmitter.

Re:Been done before? (2, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370893)

I think there is a huge market for the ability to turn various items into a quality audio transmitter.

The problem is mostly with the concept of using things like walls and desks as speakers. The material they're made out of just isn't designed for it, and if you're like most people and have pictures hung on your walls and office supplies in your desk drawers or whatnot it's going to add even more distortion.

It sounds like a better use for this metal would be making really high-quality speaker cones and "headphones" that sit on your skull instead of your ears, like they do to the article's author.

Re:Been done before? (1)

Begemot (38841) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370819)

Ok, so you can't turn your head into a speaker, but you can with practically any smooth surface.

Anything smooth? It might explain the name of this subwoofer [] .

Re:Been done before? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370824)

I just wonder why is this post marked: Interesting, when it is supposed to be Redundant? After all, sound bug is Etrema product. []

Maybe the problem is that the moderators also do not read the f. articles. There should be a system in place where the moderators are freaking forced to read the articles before they are allowed to moderate!

Re:Been done before? (1)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371151)

Hell, these ain't new. I modded my Mazda Rx-4 (yep, 4) in the 70's by turning the car roof into a speaker with a piezo transducer. You could get them at the old Heathkit stores.

Problem then, and probably now, is though they were good at reproducing high frequency, the bass notes weren't so great. You still needed a big old fashioned bass driver if you wanted chest thumping bass.

Re:Been done before? (1)

brnsurgon1 (581055) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371503)

Actually you can turn your head into a speaker with a soundbug. I have a soundbug....I tried it (:

This explains alot... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370727) wonder the voices in my head sound like the Rolling Stones.

Now if they would only quit playing "Sympathy for the Devil".


Re:This explains alot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7371257)

Pleaded to meet you! Hope you guess my name?!

thinkgeek? (1)

keldog728 (571023) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370728)

and this is different from what they sell on thinkgeek how?

Re:thinkgeek? (2, Informative)

Aneurysm (680045) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370738)

It says in the article, that the Soundbug is the "toy version" of the product. Cheap, but not great sound quality.

ThinkGeek (0, Redundant)

ajnlth (702063) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370731)

Somethink like this perhaps? []

except it's only $27

Re:ThinkGeek (4, Informative)

dirkdidit (550955) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370767)

Take it from somebody who shelled out the $30 for one of those things, they suck. Not just a little bit, but a lot. The thing rarely worked on the surfaces I'd put it on and on the surfaces it did work on, it still sounded like a dying cat. Not to mention that it is about the flimsiest thing I've ever used. It broke after only 2 weeks, though I can honestly say I wasn't heart broken.

Sure the SoundBug is a cool gadget but I strongly doubt it's even close to the product quality of the $300 this company is selling.

Quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370944)

The same company makes both products: []

Re:Quality? (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371001)

Yup -- "market segmentation": They make one or more dirt cheap, low-quality products and one or more high-end, high-quality, expensive products -- and try not to advertise too hard that it's the same company making both (at least, when I bought a Sound Bug, I had no idea these were the folks involved).

So: I wouldn't cast doubts on the quality of the high-end product based on the lack of quality of the low-end product, since said lack of quality is almost certainly intentional .

And to think.. (1)

feveron (213779) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370732)

And to think, at first I thought the headline was referring to toilets.. now THAT would be cool!

The same thing can be done (0, Redundant)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370734)

with almost any flat surface, with this litte device [] , and it's significantly cheaper, at $26.99

The Truth About ESR (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370737)

Eric S. Raymond, self-appointed historian/custodian of hacker culture and inventor of the "official" logo for said culture, a libertarian, "gun nut", neo-pagan, musician, open-source developer, fetchmail maintainer, LARP-er, warblogger, and anti-censorship activist. Surprising however is the claim to be a libertarian, and yet at the same time praise both Bush, the war on terror, and the blatant violations of international law in pursuit of the WOT.

Certainly an accomplished and diverse resume. Certainly an unconventional person by anyone's measure. I for one appreciate and commend ESR for his many contributions to the "hacker" culture that I consider myself to be somewhat a part of, although I disagree with the terminology and some of the widely held beliefs of said culture. There is no doubt that Eric has been a valuable member of our community, certainly The Cathedral and the Bazaar and his lobbying of Netscape were large steps forward for the open-source movement. There are those who view these important contributions with less appreciation than I, and ESR has his foes among our movement, of that we can be certain, but the general consensus is that he has added greatly to that which we cherish.

Now however, even more than ever we have begun to see Raymond take the path of those who seek fame and power more than the ability to serve and contribute. Claims of egotistical behavior and power-hungry publicity tactics are more the norm than the praise of the past. Resentment and revulsion have become the typical reactions among many here and elsewhere. Why is it that we are more likely to see unchecked trolling against ESR than any other in our community save perhaps Stallman? I will present the facts and background that will inform you the reader of the self-absorbed and uncompromising views of Eric S. Raymond. To take a cheap and easy shot, I would say that it is an ugly picture, even more so than the portrait of the man himself.

Let us begin with what seems to be the most specific and common complaint against the man, his usurpation of the Jargon File, the dictionary of hacker culture. Disregarding those who are angered merely at the fact that ESR has taken the Jargon File as his own and removed some of the older terms, many have railed against him for molding the File in his own image. We will also disregard terms such as "Aunt Tilly", that although not used widely if at all by any hackers at all save Raymond and a handful of others is not an entirely unfit term for the File, as it originated on the LKML and some feel it is fit for inclusion. Instead I will cite the three massively unfit terms that Raymond has chosen to enter into the "offical" lexicon of hacker-dom, "GandhiCon", "anti-idiotarianism" and "fisking". GandhiCon - 386 hits on google. I have found that ESR is the main user of this term, and seems to be it's originator. Other than ESR this term seems to be limited to those who have read ESR's writings on the subject and wish to imitate him. Hardly a widespread "hacker" term by anyone's measure. However I am willing to concede this addition on the basis that at least it deals with issues central to the open-source movement, others are more up in arms over it's usage than I, but I appreciate that this particular term actually could be a candidate for inclusion in the Jargon File.

The other two additions are more troubling, and are nothing more than pet terms of ESR himself and his personal ideology and habits, which I will delve into further into this post. Anti-idiotarianism - supposedly "very common" according to ESR's entry. This entry is far beyond gripes with things like "Aunt Tilly". Anti-idiotarianism refers mostly to ESR's own screed on the subject, "The Anti-Idiotarianism Manifesto". A document that highlights ESR's own personal politics and attempts to bash multiple groups of people. Simply search for this term to find out the depths of of his political views. This political term that describes ESR's own writings has no place in the Jargon File, as is the case for fisking, another blogging term that you can currently find on the fron page of ESR's blog,

ESR seeks power, we all recognize that. His egotism goes so far that he thinks his own Manifesto should be practically linked to in the Jargon File, a clear abuse of his power. He has changed the profile of the hacker political view from moderate to liberal, to moderate to conservative. Why the changes to the FIle that reflect his own strong political beliefs? What kind of historian imposes his own views on the community that he seeks to report on? For more on his amazingly partisan beliefs just visit the aforementioned blog and prepare to be stunned.

Look at the guy. He was a weak, nerdy, ugly kid with cerebral palsy. I'm sorry to offend but obviously there are some very intense psychological implications in all of that. He was once powerless and picked on/beat up by his peers, as well as being a weak person. His love of things that now give him a taste of the power he lacked in all ways previously is disturbing. We all know that the guy is on a major ego trip.

What object symbolizes raw power more than a gun? The power over life and death itself, able to be held in your hands and fired in an act of self-empowering catharsis. To be displayed and brazenly raised in front of one's self when others see images of you. To show others that you are a man, that you have power, that you are not a weak and sorry excuse for an alpha-male.

Now he chooses to come up with the logo for all of hackerdom, or at least all of hackerdom that he has decided to bless as a Wiccan priest in that manner. Remember, you must not crack to be a hacker, you cannot be a hacker if you use Windows, you must give your code away under an open source license to be a hacker, you must - you must. He is seriously fucked up in the head and trying to gain yet more power in our community by dictating the behaviors that we must follow.

Throw ESR out on his fat ass, just as we did to the Horned One all those thousands of years ago. There is no place in our community for those who would rule us. Even if such rule is mainly benevolent, it harms us all to be forced into a fixed pattern.

Let us find our own path ESR, we do not need suggestions from a fat retarded-looking power-hungry maniac. Have the self-control to do more than refuse all types of drugs other than your beloved tea. Refuse to let yourself become a mockery of the human form. Refuse to give in to the temptations to seek power at the cost of the respect that others once held for you.

My head already got a speaker! (5, Funny)

DaneelGiskard (222145) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370743)

I wonder...will god nullify their patent because of prior art? ;-)

Enterprising Iowegians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370744)

Aren't terbium and dysprosium supposed to keep the the spatial distortions of the Expanse from messing with the crew of the Enterprise? Too bad cute Vulcans are allergic....

This sounds like Soundbug (2, Redundant)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370745)

This product was already out in a device called SoundBug. [] back in 2002.

I seem to recall that SoundBug had poor sound quality because most surfaces and structures have strange acoustic response patterns. But I'm sure that with a bit of clever processing (a microphone and a bit of FFT magic), one could estimate the transfer function of the speaker surface, create a inverse filter that corrects for its properties, and then apply the filter to the any sound for better output.

Voices (1)

vcjim (602423) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370750)

I hear voices already. Who needs speakers? NO! They're coming!

Matrix... (4, Funny)

DaneelGiskard (222145) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370754)

If Mr. Anderson would have had that in Matrix, he could have really pissed of that agent in that questioning scene...

Agent: "What good is a phone call...if you're unable to speak!"

Neo turns on his head speakers

Neo: "Wadda say?" ;-)

Re:Matrix... (1)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371494)

Uhm, how exactly would he speak? He still doesn't have a mouth... throwing a pair of headphones on him wouldn't have helped any... why would this device do any good?

Soundbug (1, Redundant)

dimension6 (558538) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370755)

How does compare to the much cheaper Soundbug?

Re:Soundbug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370852)

Soundbug is a toy [] . Unlike Soundbug [] , this technology is supposed to not "sound[] like a dying cat."

but..... (1)

xao gypsie (641755) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370758)

my head is already a bunch of least a bunch of ppl speaking...but thats kinda teh same thing..


Main site is windows (1, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370768)

The article also says that we can soon expect pirated versions of Terfenol coming from China.

In spite of possibly losing their company due to running an insecure OS, they continue it. Though they did change the web server, but stay on the same OS. I do admire their tenacity and loyality.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370769)

Does this enable time travel in any way?

SoundBug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370770)

The reason so many of you seem to think that Etrema's Whispering Windows product is so eerily similar to the SoundBug offered by ThinkGeek is because Etrema developed both of these products.

who cares about this new fangled music technology. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370779)

when you can listen to music that's in your mind here []

now all we need is RIAA serving discovery documents for pieces of your brain....

even better (1)

winston_pr (617086) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370780)

In other news the journal "Nature" has an article on a research team that has used nano devices in the bloodstream that syncronizes cell membrane oscillations, creating an immersed full body sensation of any sound you chose to input into the system. Dolby Corpus 10000.1 anybody ?

Sound Cancel? (5, Interesting)

Davak (526912) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370782)

One wealthy businessman handed Etrema $1.5 million to stop the slight vibrations on his yacht when he hit top speeds. Terfenol did the trick, allowing him to dine at sea without having his meal shimmy off the plate. [And] a local church hired the firm to build a special pew so that a deaf person could hear the service.

This interests me more than the original article. How does a speaker-like material stop vibrations? Sure sound is a vibration... but to cancel out another sound/vibration it would have play the inverse sound at exactly the same time to cancel it out.

I'm assume the pew above just converted the sounds to either physical vibrations which the person could feel... or just adjusted the frequency to something that could be better heard/perceived.

Re:Sound Cancel? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370923)

they probably tightened a few screws then charged mrStupid 1.5mill

Re:Sound Cancel? (1)

tjcoyle (539228) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371043)

Exactly, and this should work just like the active noise-canceling technology available in aviation headsets, as well as quite a few consumer-level headphones.

Here's a doc which seems to have a little more than one might ever want to know about the technology: []

I've never had the opportunity to try a pair, but if you ask me, they should work on a pair that's effective with human voices and sell them as spouse-coping mechanisms implemented in the form of in-ear hearing aids.

They sell like friggen' hotcakes!

Re:Sound Cancel? (1)

n0mad6 (668307) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371061)

Vibrations are simply waves...If you have two waves if the right frequency/amplitude you can cause destructive interference, i.e., cause them to cancel.

look at skis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7371095)

Skis have piezo-electric daming systems now. Do they work? Well, I don't own a pair. But i can explain the principle.

A piezo-electric material produce electricity when a force is applied to it (when it is bent, essentially). This is how the lighter works on a gas grill. You press a button which raps a piezo electric material, that produces electricity which produces a spark which lights the gas.

On skis, the piezo is hooked to a device that will dissipate the electricity, typically a LED which turns it into light (looks cool) instead of a resistive load that would make it into heat.

If you have a harmonic vibration, then a piezo material in the spot can turn vibrations that would otherwise propagate as waves into electricity and then remove it. That's how the skis work. If they do indeed work.

So how does this appy? Well, some piezo materials also bend when electricity is applied. So perhaps this material is one of those?

Honestly, these transducers are nothing new, if you attach a regular speaker to a window it will vibrate the window. And it likely has the same problem the previous systems have, which is that with no absolute reference to push against it cannot produce low-frequency sounds.

If you look deep in one of the links... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7371219)

There's a discussion about how mechanical changes in the material (Terfenol-D) induce magnetic changes, which can then induce current. They mention that the same properties of the material that allow for electromagnetic-to-mechanical modulation (producing speakers) can be reversed, to allow for mechanical-to-electrical modulation (producing sensors). Thus, just as this technology can produce speakers, it can also produce sensors as well.

So my guess is (although I am totally not an engineer or physicist of any sort) that one could make sound detectors as well as sound producers using the same technology, place them strategically someplace, and use them to monitor sound sources. The speakers would then correct for the vibrational patterns detected.

They don't explicitly say that, but it's an interesting hypothesis.

As an aside, they have the most ridiculous
explanation [] ever as to how this technology works on a page about commercial advertising applications. I clicked on their link [] expecting some actual explanation of how the thing works, and instead of getting an explanation, I get a diagram of what it's doing. I hate this business-speak confusion of what and how sometimes.

Re:Sound Cancel? (1)

Jonathan Platt (670802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371348)

I think it would be relatively simple, just apply a little logic.

Have microphones placed in various spots arround the boat.

Use a phase reversal (a function built into all high end sound consoles) and play the new sound through the Terfenol.

The tricky part would be selecting the right amplitude and putting these systems in the right places arround the boat.

anti-sound (3, Interesting)

cyber_rigger (527103) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370787)

Wire this up to create a "noise canceling" device and you might have something.

Re:anti-sound (1)

spektr (466069) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370820)

Wire this up to create a "noise canceling" device and you might have something.

Great idea! If they enhance the low spectrum, broaden the dynamic range and turn up the volume really really hard, it could even replace helmets and airbags...

Re:anti-sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370834)

Besides not reading the article you failed to realise there is an advanced noise cancelling technology available at an affordable price. HMAP (Head Mounted Audio Protection) devices known more commonly as "ear muffs" are wide spread.

Also "ear buds" utilising a form of foam are available taking their basic concept from the old school bee's wax Ulysses used to protect his homies from the sirens song.

I tried it with some tape, my mpio, and those.. (2, Funny)

cspring007 (705809) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370789)

inflatable speakers they have in sharper image. Bought them, blew them up, and made what can be described as headphones. The sound was insane, as were the looks on people's faces who saw me that day in the mall.

Old news (1, Informative)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370800)

People with car stereos have been turning my neighbourhood into secondary speakers for years... (And they keep playing the "Whoompa-whoompa-whoompa!" song over and over.)

But seriously, the "turn your wall into a speaker" idea seems to pop up every 10-15 years. Let's see if they can get it right this time.

Does anyone still own a Bone-Fone radio? (Another idea that never quite worked.)

Re:Old news (2, Informative)

steelframe (590694) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370862)

Absolutely! The first I read of this was in the '60s (Popular Science/Mechanics?). I wanted one to attach to the floor for earth shaking bass, but it seems that low end is the weak point in most of these iterations. I couldn't conceive at the time that all I would have to do was park my car in the living room.

Done it again (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370808)

Roland you ego-building maniac... you've managed to do it again! You've posted your BLOG as a 'legitimate overview' to slashdot, and they've picked it up!

Now I can't wait, it sounds like this stuff makes anything into a speaker. Now when the cars with the bass booming come and drive up next to me, I'll be asking if they can turn their car down, because the car will be the speaker.

Innovative?!? (1)

Caractacus Potts (74726) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370811)

It's just an obvious use for magnetostrictive materials developed over decades using your tax dollars. Coming up with the new alloys is impressive, but applying it to audio applications is pretty obvious. Reminds me of the patent I read last week about companies patenting the use of tagatose (new sweetener) in breakfast cereals and beverages. Duh.

Re:Innovative?!? (1)

FerretOnMountDew (716007) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371179)

The innovation here isn't the applications (though the vibration free yacht at top speeds is an admitedly impressive feat), but the process by which the alloy is manufactured. Though they are reluctant to disclose how much or how fast they create the stuff, one could immagine that they've broken it down to a profitable system. I doubt it'd make much news otherwise.

Anyone know how long Teflon was around before it was economically viable to produce? Now it's on everything from frying pans to submarines.

If they manage to drive that price down a little bit, we'd all be set. Though $300 a pair for good quality mid-range speakers isn't too bad at all. (Wonder what the subs will be like)

Been done before... (3, Informative)

ThogScully (589935) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370813)

I don't know what particular metals are used in Bass Shakers [] , but I don't really care. They aren't Sound Bugs like everyone else has posted a link to and they work exceptionally well to create a speaker out of whatever you screw them into: car chassis, couch, wall, whatever.

Specifically, they are intended for bass reproduction, but that's the only frequency domain where the material of the cone isn't having a dramatic effect on the sound quality, so I wouldn't necessarily want full range production from whatever random materials I can find.

Similar to hippy technology (3, Interesting)

back_pages (600753) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370821)

I was told by my highschool orchestra conductor that he once had a device that looked similar to a small lead apron worn during X-Rays at the dentist's office. It contained oscillators that used your collar bones as the speaker, and though it produced no audible sound, you could "hear" it through the vibrations it introduced to your skeletal system.

It wasn't that popular. I think he said it was called something like a "Bonophone" or some combination of "bone" and "phone", but Googling for it this morning just comes up with a lot of links to naughty sites. Does anybody know if this really existed and what it was called?

Re:Similar to hippy technology (3, Informative)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370894)

Wow! I forgot about that thing. I had one. It was called the Bone Phone. It was a soft cloth covered device, about 18" long, 3" wide and 1" thick. You simply layed it around the back of your neck, with the two ends over your collar bones. The controls were at one end and batteries at the other. It did have speakers, but it didn't vibrate your collar bones... the speakers were positioned above the unit, right under your ears so you could hear it even with the volumn turned down low. This made it hard for others to hear.

It was a cool radio, but the walkman idea was better, because you couldn't jog with the Bone Phone on, it would too easily fall off.

Ah... thanks for the memories.


Walls as speakers in the military (4, Informative)

MemoryAid (675811) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370829)

The military has transducers used on walls to prevent people from listening in on classified conversations. I've seen them installed in aircraft carrier ready rooms, where flight briefs take place. One can put an ear to the outside of the wall to try to listen, but can only hear the (usually lame) music in the wall.

This system is not designed as a speaker, per se, but it is audible from near the wall. I have no idea what flavor of unobtanium is used for these, but I suspect they probably cost at least $1500, based on the military's track record.

Re:Walls as speakers in the military (2, Interesting)

surprise_audit (575743) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370997)

Many years ago I got a bunch of piezo-electric transducers for around 15 cents each. Just a brass disk with a slice of crystal on one side. The open face of the crystal is silver-plated. You carefully solder a fine wire to the centre of the silver and to the edge of the brass. It functions pretty well as a pickup, and moderately well as a speaker.

To make a speaker out of one (or more), just fix them securely to any flat surface. The bigger and flatter the surface, the better, and better yet would be to have some kind of sounding box behind it.

The pickup function works incredibly well - with one plugged into a normal guitar amp, you can shout at it as loud as you like and it barely registers, but hold it against your throat and speak normally and you get really good quality with absolutely no background noise... Excellent for phones, microphones, etc.

china (3, Insightful)

Potor (658520) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370878)

But if scientists from China discover how to manufacture Terfenol -- Etrema's Snodgrass says that three Chinese companies have already started making pirated versions -- the metal's still-fragile reputation could be harmed by the cheaper, imported version.
if china has the metals and the formula, why would their 'pirate' version be inferior to the american version, beyond its not being american? wouldn't market demand dictate the quality of the chinese ternenol? and surely pirated is the wrong word here. they are not bootlegging consumer goods, but manufacturing a material. unless, that is, they use it to make mickey mouse dolls and rolex watches.

america (1)

axxackall (579006) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370979)

and surely pirated is the wrong word here.

not only here, generally IP cannot be pirated. IP is a fact of discovery, not of posession.

Dickhead (1, Flamebait)

Talisman (39902) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371113)

"if china has the metals and the formula, why would their 'pirate' version be inferior to the american version, beyond its not being american?"

Where in the article did it indicate it would be inferior? They meant 'cheap' as in inexpensive, not low quality.

"wouldn't market demand dictate the quality of the chinese ternenol?"

Ummm... no? Market demand would determine the price. Product quality might sway consumer choice to the (presumably) more expensive American version (having to pay your non-Commie workers a living wage is a mother fucker on the bottom line) but since they STOLE (or are trying to steal) the process, the quality might be comparable.

"and surely pirated is the wrong word here. they are not bootlegging consumer goods, but manufacturing a material."

They are trying to mimic a patented process, and went so far as to hack into a company's network to steal the manufacturing details. If Americans had done the same to a start-up Chinese company, you and your ilk would be screaming about what greedy imperialists we are.

"Two years ago the firm's computer system was hacked into, most likely by spies for the People's Republic of China, which, according to the Pentagon, is actively trying to steal the formula for Terfenol. Terbium and dysprosium are most commonly found in the Boutou region of northern China."

What is confusing you? Just because they have the ingredients in their backyard doesn't mean they know wtf to do with them, nor does it mean they have eminent domain over any process that might incorporate those ingredients.


Re:Dickhead (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371173)

a) the article states that cheaper versions from china might harm the reputation of the material. this implies that the chinese version is inferior.

b) the market will certainly determine the quality. the quality the market demands will be the quality supplied; price will be in part a function of this.

c) i am not confused. as posted above, a material is a discovery. it cannot be pirated. i agree that this is not an argument but rather an axiom. i, however, am prepared to defend it.

cheers, potor

Re:Dickhead (3, Interesting)

Nucleon500 (628631) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371314)

The process to make this material is patented, right? If so, wouldn't hacking a network to steal the manufacturing details be superfluous? Couldn't they just look at the patent? The whole point of patents is that you get a temporary monopoly in return for not keeping secrets.

Granted, making this material would be a violation of US patent law (and Chinese patent law, to the extent it exists), but you're making it sound like the patent has been obfuscated, which shouldn't be.

Hearing for the deaf? (5, Interesting)

timefactor (265504) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370880)

a local church hired the firm to build a special pew so that a deaf person could hear the service

This is the most intriguing thing about this. Would a deaf person be able to "hear" using the "head-as-speaker" technique?

Re:Hearing for the deaf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7371317)

If it did work, it would only be effective for those who lived a number of years before going deaf. Those born deaf (or those who went deaf before learning spoken language) would not be able to draw on previous experience to understand the speaker.

Best use of their expensive material (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370887)

Ok, so they say on their website that they have to focus on the more promising uses of the metal.

And they come up with a really expensive (5.1 * 7500 = 38250 dollars for a surround set) speaker system first. Which already exists.

I don't understand ? (2, Funny)

TenPin22 (213106) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370888)

Theres no such thing as pirating in China.

Yes, you don't understand... (1)

axxackall (579006) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371012)

that there is not such thing as IP pirating. IP is a fact of discovery, not of posession.

Re:Yes, you don't understand... (1)

TenPin22 (213106) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371209)

You know that, I know that, but its still not the way the "Free World TM" works.

Re:Yes, you don't understand... (1)

aurum42 (712010) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371525)

Do you think repeating your inane mantra in several threads lends legitimacy to your argument? If the Chinese independently discovered the process to create this alloy, sure I'd agree that it would be unethical to claim that as theft. But if they infiltrated this company's network or otherwise obtained knowledge of this process from the company (read the article), they are stealing (yes "pirating") years of hard work.

Re:I don't understand ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7371065)

Guess what... the west pirated Gunpowder, silk and paper manufactoring, etc from China.

Bone-Fone (2, Informative)

kantai (719870) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370903)

Some information about the bone-fone and a picture can be found here: x3.html

A tale of Chinese Piracy (1)

vudufixit (581911) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370921)

I remember reading a story on Chinese piracy in a business publication some years back. It talked about how some of this piracy has tacit government support. One official was asked about pirated software, and when the subject of the holographic authenticity logos came up he deadpanned, "that's what our Reflective Materials Institute is for.

I'll put the device on my dog's head... (1)

armando_wall (714879) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370934)

...and connect it to to a wireless mike, so I can scare my mother-in-law the hell out of my house!!!

"Feed me, you sinner"

Rare Earth Elements (3, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370936)

The Industrial Physicist [] has an interesting article [] (PDF file) on rare earth elements that mentions terbium and dysprosium. According to the article, 3.6 kg of dysprosium will set you back about $50,000 US.

my bullshit meter is going of the scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7370937)

go and ask a real speaker [] manufacturer [] what they think of it, just stand back while they laugh at you as you talk to them about smart metals and the other bullshit this firm are dishing out

Re:my bullshit meter is going of the scale (2, Interesting)

Jonathan Platt (670802) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371455)

Playing off a table I would agree with you. But this technology could be improved and used with different surface materials to one day provide sound better than conventional speakers. I used to be a sound engineer, and there are some major problems with creating really large speakers. Which is why most companies now use line array systems instead, but even these have phase cancellation, and don't represent low frequencies accuratly. This could allow a new way of creating speakers, and I'm sure could be perfected. Also EAW and Turbo Sund specialise in concert speakers, not quite speakers an audiophile would use. Tannoy, Meyer, now they make speakers.

OMG the Video Games are becoming my life. (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 10 years ago | (#7370950)

Terfenol, which is a combination of terbium and dysprosium.

Now we will have to build harvesters, and tesla coils, and send thousands of dogs to the enemies base...


Beastly thing to balance (1)

Subcarrier (262294) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371033)

Damn! So how do you make your speakers stay put? Hobble the legs, or what?

Set to replace the previous tooth speaker (1)

gracefool (649481) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371038)

From the article:
"Barry Mersky, a dentist in Maryland, bought Terfenol in 1995 in hope of creating a "tooth phone," a small device placed on a tooth that allows people to communicate in high-noise environments. Mersky's six-person company, ESComms, based in Bethesda, Md., now receives funding from the Army and Navy, whose interest was piqued after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks showed that firefighters had trouble hearing radio communications inside the World Trade Center. The dentist is hoping to have a working prototype for the military to start using by next year."

Looks like this may replace the tooth phone previously designed [] by researchers from MIT Media Lab Europe.

With Terfenol, you don't need an implant, but merely a plate attached to a tooth. Though there is still the question of where to put the radio receiver.

Re:Set to replace the previous tooth speaker (1)

SirDaShadow (603846) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371138)

With Terfenol, you don't need an implant, but merely a plate attached to a tooth. Though there is still the question of where to put the radio receiver. I know why that odd wireless technology is called "bluetooth" :P

This is awesome, and here's why... (1)

writermike (57327) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371131)

I know you've all seen it!

You pull up to a stop light and some guy next to you has his stereo so far up and his bass so deep that your very fillings shake inside of your teeth enamel!

Well, just ONCE, I'd like this guy to turn his head into a speaker and do the same thing to himself that he's been doing to other drivers for years.


Cool, but flames are more fun (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371214)

Let's hope no one starts attacking people in crowds with stick-on spam-radios. I can just see poor souls wandering around helplessly with their heads turned into speakers playing ads. I think I'll stick with something safer like a good ole' flame speaker... I ran across this Flame Speaker Project []

Old News (1)

GOPWillC (720979) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371250)

Wasn't this talked about, like a few years ago or something? I swear I remember an article here, and on ZDnet about this a while ago.

They blew it (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 10 years ago | (#7371391)

IMHO this is just another sad story of a company who is going to sink because they don't understand that customers buy services, not patents. If they were smart, they would advertize the process to the whole world in a way that is unmistakable that they invented it, and they would license it in a way that is almost free - accept that they are not locked out of future innovations of the people who use it.

Even if that failed, they could do an Ely Whitney strategy, who never made a penny from the cotton gyn, but made tons from other manufacturing contracts that were given to him specifically because of his reputation.

By doing it this way, they will have neither. It is really sad to see people sink themselves like this. I guess the old axiom is true, the best way to ruin someone over is to tell them that they have rights that they don't really have (in this case, patents) and watch them destroy themselves persuing it.

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