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"Dolphin speaker" could pave the way for human-cetacean communication


May 16, 2012

Scientists have created an underwater speaker for use in studying dolphin communication (Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists have created an underwater speaker for use in studying dolphin communication (Photo: Shutterstock)

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While there’s little doubt that dolphins are saying something to one another with all their clicks, squeals and whistles, we’re still not entirely sure just what it is that they’re communicating. We may be getting closer to figuring it out, however, as Japanese scientists have created an underwater speaker that’s capable of playing back the creatures’ entire acoustic range. The next step - see how they respond.

The device was created by a team from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, working with colleagues from tech company Fusion, Inc. It can reproduce not only the dolphins’ low-frequency sub-20 kiloHertz sounds, which can likewise be made and heard by humans, but also their high-frequency sounds that we can’t hear, which go up to 150 kHz.

Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology's "dolphin speaker"

“Acoustic studies of dolphins that have been done so far focus mainly on recordings of vocalizations and hearing abilities, but relatively few playback experiments have been conducted,” said Tokyo University grad student Yuka Mishima. “There were no speakers that could project from low to high frequencies like dolphins, although some could project the low-frequency sounds or parts of dolphin sounds.”

The speaker incorporates “new types of piezoelectric elements that had never been used for underwater acoustic transducers,” and is capable of producing sounds ranging from 7 to 170 kHz. Mishima says that they now plan on using the device to play back recorded dolphin sounds, to observe the reactions of real dolphins.

Source: Acoustical Society of America via Extreme Tech

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Hopefully this new aquatic speaker was created with altruistic intentions to develop communication with dolphins. Makes me think of the horrors of the 2007 movie The Cove.


"So Long and Thanks for all the Fish!"

Gary Joyce

This is very cool project. I hope that it is to be used for peaceful purposes rather then for stupid army inventions.

Kirill Belousov
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