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article imageTechnologists create ‘singing posters’ and musical clothes

By Tim Sandle     Mar 11, 2017 in Technology
Technologists have developed a new technique that allows 'singing' posters and 'smart' clothing to beam audio data directly to a car's radio or to a smartphone. This happens via FM radio signals.
Imagine going up to a poster of your favorite band fixed to a wall, pressing a button on your smartphone and then getting a tune beamed back that you can listen to. Or perhaps pre-loading some music onto your t-shirt, jumping into your car and playing the songs as they are beamed from the clothing you are wearing. This might sound far-fetched but it is creeping closer to reality thanks to innovations undertaken by University of Washington technologists.
The process can potentially go further. A smart t-short could signal to your mobile device that you are perspiring too much when out jogging and are at risk from perspiration. Or a large billboard could send you digital content about a nearby local exhibit.
The new method for radio signals to beam sound and images has been developed by a team led by computer science and engineering professor Shyam Gollakota. The way this is achieved is not by conventional radio signals, such as standard FM or WiFi, but by ambient FM radio signals. FM broadcasting is the main method of radio broadcasting, using frequency modulation (FM) technology. The advantage is that these types of signals conserve battery power far more efficiently. Ambient radio signals are already in the air; all the new technology does is tap into them.
This is made possible via a process called "backscattering" to outdoor FM radio signals. This allows encoded messages to be sent. The process has been presented to the march 2017 meeting of the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.
In a test a poster was shown to send an audio track. This was for a pop group called Simply Three. The song was sent to both a smartphone, around 12 feet away from the poster and to a car radio some 60 feet away. This happened by jumping-on radio signals being transmitted by ta nearby radio station. The new signals do not disrupt the existing radio signals, instead they ‘piggyback’ them.
The same low-power approach can also be used to create smart fabric applications. This includes clothing containing sensors aiming to assess the performance of the wearer (as with a spots application) or with transmitting audio files.
The success of the signals will lead to further research and it is likely the ‘singing’ poster will soon be up on a wall near you.
More about Technology, Music, musical technology, FM Radio, Radio waves
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