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New soundwave powered button from Disney. Physical buttons are usually powered by electric circuits, but Disney Research Labs have different ideas. They are using audiowaves via your phone’s audiojack and microphone to trigger anything from opening an app to taking a photo. (via Disney Research/Carnegie Mellon)


The folks at Disney Research Labs have come up with an interesting new concept that could turn into something in the future. They are calling them “Acoustruments” and they are physical buttons that utilize soundwaves to work. Strange but alluring, eh?


As smartphones become more streamlined, they also become less tactile as the physical buttons turn into a virtual button controlled by touch. So, Disney’s new idea would essentially allow you to add your own buttons, sliders, knobs, or anything else you can think of to power whatever you like. However, these are ‘buttons’ with a huge difference because they utilize differences in tone to control apps and other controls on your phone.


You would essentially download an app that would play a continual tone on your phone. Then you’d plug your button into the headphone jack. As you physically manipulate the button, slider, or knob, it will manipulate the tone that is produced, allowing you to trigger an output – like taking a picture.


Disney researchers give a tons of really creative ideas on how their different controls can be used to do anything as simple as turning your alarm on or off, to taking pictures, to bringing a toy to life. They also seemed to have tested their new concept with GPS and Google Maps.


What is more interesting is how sensitive the controls seem to be. Since it’s dealing with sound, it uses the same concept as you putting your fingers over flute holes to control the output. As you can imagine, flutes have a greater range than the average push-button. Hence, these controls seem to have quite a range of what you can trigger by differentiating the types of touches you use. There seem to be a lot of possibilities with this, and it looks really easy to implement. Can’t wait to see what people do with this concept.



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