MIT's new tech transmits audio messages via lasers

Science

30 Jan 2019

MIT's new tech transmits audio messages via lasers: Here's how

Over the years, phones and earbuds have refined the concept of wireless audio transmission.

You can call and talk to a friend for hours, but the deal is, even today there's no technique to be absolutely covert about it.

This is where MIT's new tech could come in - a system capable of transmitting targeted audio messages solely via lasers.

Here's how it works.

Technology

Creating sound using laser and water

Creating sound using laser and water

The system builds on the photoacoustic effect, where a material absorbs light for producing sounds.

However, in this particular case, the researchers used water vapor in the air as the material for creating sound waves.

They fired a laser beam at wavelength that is strongly absorbed by water and then scanned it at the speed of sound to generate audio signals at different frequencies.

Benefits

Audio signals are only heard at specific distances

The laser triggered signals are received without any kind of equipment, but more interestingly, they can only be heard at a specific distance from the transmitter.

Meaning, if anyone comes in the path of the laser, they won't be able to hear the message being transmitted.

Additionally, the technique can work anywhere because there is always some water in the air, particularly around people.

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Plus, the lasers do not harm the recipient

"Our system can be used from some distance away to beam information directly to someone's ear," research lead Charles Wynn claimed. "It is first system that uses lasers that are fully safe for eyes and skin to localize an audible signal to a particular person".

Uses

Possible applications of a technique like this

Possible applications of a technique like this

Though the system is still being developed, the research team has already imagined its wide-spanning applications.

They believe the method, when fully evolved, could be used to transmit audio messages in noisy spaces or to warn soldiers about looming dangers.

"There are a lot of exciting possibilities," study author Ryan Sullenberger said. "We want to develop the communication technology in ways that are useful."

Next step

Still, there's a long way to go

Having said that, it is important to note that the system still needs to evolve, especially in terms of its range.

As of now, the team can transmit laser-powered audio messages at 60 decibels to a person standing some 2.5 meters away.

For practical application and commercialization of this tech, they will have to scale it up to longer distances.

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