Disney is doing a lot more than 3D-printing fabric. Disney Research Labs have created smartphone accessories called “acoustruments” that can control your smartphone by playing the instrument-like accessories. These little ultrasonic instruments attach to the base of a smartphone and the manipulations of sound can be interpreted like toggles and switches for the smartphone, like pressing a camera shutter in the above photo. The idea is based on the principles of wind instruments like slide whistles and The Legend of Zelda‘s ocarina.
The hardware works by sending a sustained source of inaudible ultrasonic sound waves into one end of a tube on the hardware, and a microphone on the other end of the tube reads the input. As the sound waves are physically manipulated, a smartphone can recognize each poke and prod as a command.
According to the research paper from Disney Research at Carnegie Mellon University, acoustruments can create specialized smartphone commands from sound with over 99% accuracy, while weeding out the commands from background noise and vibrations.
The research team created a host of acoustrument controls with different designs, like little gates in the sound tubes that can identify whether a phone is in your hand or on the table. The team also developed an interactive toy doll case.
Take a look at the varieties of acoustruments here:
Because the acoustruments are mostly a physical addition of plastic tubing to smartphones, the cases are designed to be inexpensive, too. But, it’s doubtful that Disney’s acoustrument cases will be coming to a store near you anytime soon. They were designed as a proof of concept; however, we may see acoustic control elements incorporated into future smartphones.