At this year’s CEATEC Japan, Tokai Rubber Industries Ltd. unveiled the first ever speaker made entirely of rubber – or should I say “smart rubber.”  With this technology what appears to be an ordinary strip of latex can be wired into a speaker.

There already is a range of modern products such smartphones using miniature speakers to produce decent quality sound. However, smart rubber speakers stand above with one thing they don’t have – good bass.

Smart rubber was previously developed by Tokai for use in robots to give them a sense of touch so they don’t crush us with their robotic might when lifting us out of a chair. This type of rubber is actually layers of conductive and insulating rubber that react when a current is passed through them.

This allows the rubber to be used as a type of pressure sensor, but more recently has been developed to generate sound by the expansion and contraction caused by electricity. So, although it’s just pieces of rubber, they’re highly specialized pieces of rubber.

Current thin speakers use films of piezoelectric material, which is material that bends when electricity is added to it. This is likely what makes all the sound that comes out of your mobile phone now, unless you’re using one of those Zack Morris brick phones.

The downside to these speakers is that they can’t achieve low frequency sounds making your Tone Lōc albums worthless.  Regular speakers accomplish this with magnets but they are difficult to fit into modern gadgets, and how do they work anyway?

The flexible yet compact nature of smart rubber allows it to reproduce those low notes reportedly quite well.  Sounds great, so how do we get it?

This is the problem. Tokai envisions it being used as an alternative to headphones by building into chairs and stuff.  However, they’re a rubber company and don’t really know what to do with the stuff per se, which is why they’re shopping it around at CEATEC.

If the sound is as good as they say, electronics companies should be flocking to get a square of smart rubber speakers for their devices in the near future.  Currently it’s unavailable for sale to the public.

Source: DigInfo TV (Japanese/English)