Researchers use 3D printing to produce interactive speakers of any shape

Forget everything you know about what a loudspeaker should look like. Scientists at Disney Research, Pittsburgh have developed methods using a 3D printer to produce electrostatic loudspeakers that can take the shape of anything, from a rubber ducky to an abstract spiral.

The simple speakers require little assembly, but even those few manual steps might be eliminated in the future, said Yoshio Ishiguro, a Disney Research, Pittsburgh post-doctoral associate. “In five to 10 years, a 3D printer capable of using conductive materials could create the entire piece,” he predicted.

The method developed by Ishiguro and Ivan Poupyrev, a former Disney Research, Pittsburgh principal research scientist, will be presented April 29 at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in Toronto.

The speaker technology could be used to add sound to any number of toys or other objects. Because the same speakers that produce audible sound also can produce inaudible ultrasound, the objects can be identified and tracked so that they can be integrated into games and other interactive systems. The objects can be touched or held in a user’s hand without a noticeable decrease in sound quality, so simple tactile feedback may also be possible. … (Read more)