This project explores the use of human body as an analogue sound transmission medium. Called “Ishin-Den-Shin,” a Japanese expression for communicating through an unspoken mutual understanding, i.e. non-verbal communication, the technology turns an audio message into an inaudible signal that is relayed by the human body. When the communicator’s finger slightly rubs an object, this physical interaction creates an ad hoc speaker that makes it possible to hear the recorded sounds.

A special case of Ishin-Den-Shin is when communicator touches another person’s ear. In this case modulated electrostatic field creates a very small vibration of the ear lobe and, both the finger and other person’s ear together form a speaker which makes the signal audible only for the person touched.

The Ishin-Den-Shin system includes a handheld microphone connected to a computer.. When someone speaks into the microphone, the computer turns the sound into a looped recording. The recording is then converted into high-voltage, low-current inaudible signal that flows into a thin wire connected to the interior of the microphone. This looped, inaudible signal creates a modulated electrostatic field produces a very small vibration of a finger touching an object, forming a speaker.

The Ishin-Den-Shin technology thus can turn everyday artifacts into interactive sound devices without the need to instrument them with any special technological apparatus. It can be used for inter-personal communication and furthemore it can be transmitted from person to person via any sort of physical contact.

Team and Credits

The Ishin-Den-Shin project was developed at Disney Research Pittsburgh by Olivier Bau, Ivan Popyrev and Yuri Suzuki.

Matthew Glisson, Alex Rothera and Yoshio Ishiguro joined the Ishin-Den-Shin team for the design and production of the Cyber Arts 2013 exhibition.


Honorable Mention, Interaction Category, Prix Ars Electronica 2013.

CyberArts 2013 Exhibition, Ars Electronica 2013, Linz, Austria.