The Current

How human-based technology is life-changing for people with disabilities

When Walt Disney opened Disneyland, he had a vision of fusing technology with entertainment. Nearly sixty years later, the company has found a way of improving the microphone from a touch of a finger to a listeners ear. And new audio technology is improving the lives of many who are now hearing the world in new ways....
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When Walt Disney opened Disneyland, he had a vision of fusing technology with entertainment. Nearly sixty years later, the company has found a way of improving the microphone from a touch of a finger to a listeners ear. And new audio technology is improving the lives of many who are now hearing the world in new ways.



Human beings have always communicated through touch -- but Disney's found a way to actually send speech through fingertips.

When the Vogons from the "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" speak to humans, they turn everything on earth into a PA system. Now earthlings may be ready to surpass Vogon tech.

Disney Research scientists have created a microphone they say works by transmitting sound directly into the ear -- through touch.

Ishin-Den-Shin is a microphone that transmits sound through touch. The microphone records the signal, the sound is transformed into an inaudible signal and that is transmitted to the person's body when holding the microphone. When touching another person's ear a modulated electro-static attraction force is created and both the finger and the ear together form a speaker. The recording becomes audible for the person touched, like the finger would be whispering into the person's ear. Secrets, messages and whispers can be transmitted from person to person with different contacts. The body becomes a broadcasting source for the recording.Yuri Suzuki, Sound Artist/Designer and co-inventor of the Ishin-Den-Shin microphone

The Ishin-Den-Shin microphone isn't the only technology that uses the human body to conduct sound. Google Glass does something similar. And for the hearing impaired -- these innovations have fascinating possibilities.

  • David Trahan is a senior strategist for a global digital marketing and technology agency called MRY and he is part of the Google's Glass Explorer program --- helping Google by testing out the new computer-glasses. Mr. Trahan is also hearing impaired and he was in New York City.

  • Kel Smith has worked in the area of health care and technology for more than a decade. He runs a company that develops technologies for people with disabilities. His book, Digital Outcasts is about how the technology industry often leaves those with disabilities behind. He was in Washington D.C.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins and Kristin Nelson.

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