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Mashing a flute and smartphone creates a smarter device


Who would’ve thought that a flute and a smartphone could play so well together.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research have come up with a way of combing the ageless instrument and a smartphone to create an even ‘smarter’ device.  What they essentially did was take the concept called ‘Acoustruments’ and integrated it into a device that has a speaker and mic.  Pluggable plastic tubing connect the speaker and mic, and when sound passes through the tubing it can be altered by various means.

Think of how the sound of a flute changes depending on which holes the musician plugs up with his fingers.  Acoustruments work in similar way.  Since smartphone speakers can produce continuous sweeps of ultrasonic frequencies, we can divert or manipulate these acoustic signal as they pass through the tubes to create a new set of features.

The researchers envision using the flute-smartphone combo strategy to let people control their devices without relying too much on the touch display.  For instance, virtual reality sets that uses smartphones as the primary driver basically takes away all touch functionality.  Therefore this type of control mechanism is extremely useful in this in this scenario.

Just as important is the fact that adding this new sound-based control mechanism to a smart device doesn’t require additional circuitry, leading to more functionalities without power drain.

“We’re providing people with tangible interactivity at basically no cost… Using smartphones as computers to control toys, appliances and robots already is a growing trend, particularly in the maker community,” said Gierad Laput, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon and lead author of the study.

The researchers demonstrated the viability of their smart sound tech by adapting it to a smartphone case that can ‘sense’ and respond to where and how it’s being touched.  When people poked the case’s belly, for example, the smartphone makes a giggly face.

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Source: CMU

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