ACOUSTRUMENTS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I didn't know my phone could produce ultrasound?!
Yes, most modern phones capable of playing music / mp3s are also capable of producing ultrasound up to 22.5kHz.
Can you hear the ultrasound?
The ultrasound we utilize is inaudible.
Does the speaker always need to be going to work? Doesn't this drain a lot of battery?
Depending on the implementation this could sweep less frequently (say once per second) to determine if there is a state change. We're doing this already in the alarm clock example so that we can use the speaker for audible sound in the interim. The functionality can be app-specific, that is, you activate the speakers only when you have the app running. A lot of existing apps already have this configuration (e.g., audio recording and playback apps).
Is this limited to handheld devices and phones?
Absolutely not! Any interactive devices that has a speaker and microphone can utilize the sensing techniques we employ in Acoustruments. Laptops, tablets, even headphones with tiny microphones could use this technology
What can you do with this method that you couldn't a normal circuit style controller? Or is it just cool from a theoretical perspective?
I think there are two big takeaways from this.
- You can add interactivity to what would otherwise be static objects. That means you could build something out of cheap plastic or rubber materials, and using the commodity hardware on the phone, add buttons sliders knobs etc.
- Using this approach you can combine different design primitives/mechanisms to create a wide range of interactions. For example you can combine a proximity sensor with a pressure sensor as we did with Yakamo our interactive character.
As with Moore's law, you know that electronics are becoming really cheap. It seems like we can just go away with mass producing cheap products with embedded electronics, and thus making this technology somewhat obsolete. What is your response?
You're absolutely right. I don't think Acoustruments is meant to replace decades-worth of progress in mass production. What this research brings to the table, however, is an input and sensing technique that takes advantage of the ubiquity of mobile devices, and the ever-increasing availability of accessible fabrication technologies like 3D printing and injection molding. This use-case fits well with rapid prototyping, or specific applications requiring both digital and tangible interactivity simply by taking advantage of people's phones. With Acoustruments, a piece of plastic is "brought to life" without intrusive and cumbersome electronics.