Imagine being able to communicate with someone just by touching them.
Based on the Japanese concept Ishin-Denshin, which translates to “what the mind thinks, the heart transmits," Disney Research created a microphone that records a sound and then transmits it to another person -- not audibly but through touch.
Disney Research's Ish-Denshin won an honorable mention at Ars Technica's 2013 conference. (Image via Disney video screenshot)
Here's more on the concept, as explained by the Disney researchers:
The Ishin-Den-Shin interactive installation addresses physicality and intimacy in digital audio communication. It consists of a microphone that can record sounds and transmit them through touch. Once recorded, the sound is transformed in an inaudible signal. This signal is transmitted to a person’s body when holding the microphone. The signal can be transmitted by physical contact, from body to body. The recorded sound becomes audible only when touching someones ear. The sound can be heard only by the specific ear which is touched, as if the finger would be whispering the recorded sounds. Secrets, messages and whispers can then be transmitted from person to person in physical contact with each others. Bodies become a broadcasting medium for intimate, physical, sound communication.
Other people touching the person holding the microphone can transmit the sound as well. (Image via Disney video screenshot)
New Scientist spoke with the inventor of Ishin-Denshin, Ivan Poupyrev, who compared it to sci-fi technology in Douglas Adam's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
"If you remember the beginning of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy,' when the Vogons arrive to blow up the Earth, they turn every object on Earth into a perfect hi-fi PA system that is used to announce that the Earth is going to be destroyed. Ishin-Denshin is something along those lines, minus destruction of the Earth," Poupyrev said.
How would such technology be useful in the real world -- or at least for making Disney magic?
"Storytelling is one large application area where we are interested, when touching and rubbing objects (say Aladdin's lamp) is part of the game or storytelling experience," Poupyrev told New Scientist. "Anything new and unusual is of course very important to create magical experiences."
Watch how the concept works in this video courtesy of New Scientist:
For more on the technical details about the device, check out Disney Research's website.