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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 13:44 GMT
Bug sets windows shaking
Soundbug, BBC
test hello test
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble
at CeBIT 2002 in Hanover
This is the Soundbug, a British-designed gadget aimed at young people that turns any hard, smooth surface into a loudspeaker.

It turns whatever it's attached to into a sounding board

Richard May, Olympia
A little smaller than a computer mouse, it is based on technology research by Newlands Scientific at Hull University, and is marketed by a company called Olympia.

"It's audio, not hi-fi. We're aiming at the eight to 16 market," Olympia's president, Richard May, told BBC News Online.

The device goes on sale in the UK for 30 this month and is showcasing at the CeBIT 2002 computer fair in Hanover, Germany. The product will also be demonstrated on the BBC's Tomorrow's World programme on Wednesday.

Rare material

At the heart of the Soundbug is a small piece of a material called Terfenol-D, originally developed by the US military for sonar work.

Soundbug, Olympia
The makers hope the product will go down well with the youth market
"It's 60% iron with a couple of rare earth elements in it and it's grown like a piece of silicon," explained Mr May.

"When you put it in a magnetic field, it moves very slightly, perhaps a micron or so, but with an enormous force of maybe 400 pounds," he said.

"So it turns whatever it's attached to into a sounding board," he added.

Skull effect

The Soundbug attaches to audio sources via a 3.5 millimetre jack plug, so it is easy to connect to a CD player or a minidisc.

It even turns the human skull into a loudspeaker if it is pressed on the back of the head.

The effect is quite strange, as the sound feels as if it is coming from inside the head, behind the ears.

Olympia has other devices in development, including two in-car mobile-phone hands-free kits that use the same technology to turn a car window into a loudspeaker.

One even had a Bluetooth interface to work with the latest mobile phones, Mr May said.

The Soundbug appears in the UK on Tomorrow's World on BBC One at 1900 on Wednesday, 20 March.

BBC News Interactive reports from the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover





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