Oct. 18, 2012 at 3:03 PM ET
A Japanese company has created a speaker made entirely out of rubber "artificial muscle." It sounds strange, but these soft speakers could be very practical.
Tokai Rubber Industries has developed a material they call Smart Rubber. Despite its resemblance to normal rubber, this material can expand or contract when hit with electric current. That means it can be used the way we use muscles — though unlike our muscles, Smart Rubber can be safely cut and shaped into new forms.
One such form demonstrated by Tokai at the CEATEC technology show in Tokyo is a soft speaker. Its construction is simple: A sandwich of Smart Rubber and insulating rubber, controlled by a pair of electrodes. As the current is varied, the Smart Rubber expands and contracts quickly, producing soundwaves.
Katsuhiko Nakano, who presented the tech to DigInfo during CEATEC, also mentions that unlike other small speakers, these Smart Rubber ones can reproduce low frequencies — in other words, they've got bass.
There's no roadmap for how or when the speakers will enter the mainstream, but Nakano thinks that integrating the speakers into chairs or pillows would be a natural fit for the technology. Just imagine how intense your home theater could be if all of the seat cushions doubled as speakers.
You can watch the DigInfo video of the technology below:
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.