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May 11th, 2012

Hear through your head: Kyocera demos ceramic transducer-based tissue conduction technology phone

Published on May 11th, 2012 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Credit: Notebooks: YouTube.

You don’t have to be a hard head to appreciate this: Kyocera demonstrated this week a new audio technology for cellphones (and likely a wide range of other applications) using a system that is designed to clearly transmit sound waves through tissue and bone. The company has replaced the traditional cell phone speaker with a system based on proprietary ceramic transducer technology. The phone can still be heard a few inches from the user’s head, but the transducer system really comes into play when the phone is touched to the ear or on the skull near the ear.

The utility of this? I can think of lots of times when I have been in a noisy conference reception or a sporting event and get a call on my cellphone: I typically can’t hear what the caller is saying and have to dash off to an exit or quiet corner to complete the call. As described in the above video, Kyocera claims its technology can provide crystal-clear sound even in noisy environments—sort of like noise-cancelling earphones, but no noise has to be cancelled because the transducer’s actions produce an alternate pathway for vibrations to the ear canal and inner ear than the ambient noise.

As Kyocera notes, there also are times when employees (they mention aircraft ground crews) wear bulky ear protection devices that must be worn, and there is no possibility of going to a quieter place. The company says a phone with its technology can be held up to the ear cans and be well heard.

The company says the phones with the technology will be brought quickly to market, first in Japan and later on in the United States and other markets.

Kyocera’s system was introduced at the International CTIA Wireless 2012 Conference that just wrapped up in New Orleans.

ADDING: After doing some more digging around, I found that the Kyocera technology was apparently also demo’ed early this year, although in KDDI phones. (Background: There is a connection between KDDI and Kyocera: Both were founded by the legendary ceramics leader, Kazuo Inamori.) The narrator of the video obviously didn’t really understand the transducer end of things, but he does demonstrate how the sound works either by means of direct ear contact or vibrations through a set of protective earphones or even metal microphone!


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