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CeBit: Shake the room without a cone

Gadget turns your room into giant speaker

Ever wished you could afford a stereo system powerful enough to wake your entire street? Well you could be in luck, because a new gadget premiered at last week's CeBit trade show in Hanover can turn your bedroom wall into a giant speaker.

Olympia's beetle-shaped Soundbug can make any hard surface a sounding board, using technology pioneered by the US Navy.

The device, which will be available from the end of April at the surprisingly affordable price of £29.99, is aimed primarily at children and teenagers.

The Soundbug plugs into the headphone socket of an MP3 player or other music device and can be attached to any hard, flat surface using a suction ring on its underside.

When music is played through the Soundbug it sends vibrations into the material it is attached to, causing the surface of the material to broadcast sound. Soundbugs can even be 'daisy-chained' to produce stereo sound.

However, the device could land you in trouble with the neighbours as it transmits sound on both sides of the surface to which it's attached.

Inside the Soundbug is a small aluminium-wrapped ingot of a metallic compound called Terfenol-D containing a rare metal called terbium. The ingot is wrapped in a coil and passing electricity through it causes the Terfenol-D to contract and expand at more than a thousand times per second.

This property is called magnetostriction and can produce a force of up to 150kg. Terfenol-D has also been used by the US Navy in underwater sonar equipment.

A spokeswoman for Olympia said the Soundbug produces different acoustics depending on the surface it is attached to. “MDF tends to be good at reproducing bass sounds because of the little air pockets inside it. Glass is better at transmitting louder sounds,” she said.

In July, Olympia is releasing a version of the Soundbug designed for use with a mobile phone. This can be attached to a car window, allowing drivers to have hands-free conversations. But this would mean everyone could hear your conversations in a traffic jam.

There are also plans for a model designed for conference rooms that distributes sound equally so that everyone seated around a conference table can hear a presentation clearly. This version is set for release in late autumn.

The device runs on three AAA batteries and comes with a 183cm extension cable with a 3.5mm jack connection. The Soundbug is previewed at the CeBit technology trade show in Hanover, Germany, which runs until Wed 20 March.


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