Remember when people carried around boomboxes on their shoulders? A new innovation could make that as ancient as the record player.
If you're looking to save space in your living room, while getting a conversation started at the same time, you could do a lot worse than the FleXpeaker, a paper-thin speaker from a Taiwanese research company called ITRI.
An amazingly skinny, but still powerful device, the FleXpeaker sounds great, while making your iPod Touch seem obese by comparison.
ITRI came to Silicon Valley Wednesday to show its speaker off. It's not yet ready for mass production (probably, we're told, sometime next year), but it's not too hard to imagine it in a car, on a laptop, or even covering an entire wall. It can be bent like a piece of paper, even cut into whatever shape you want.
IRTI vice president Ian Yi-Jen Chan says the speaker can be this skinny because of an ultrathin film that fits between thin sheets. The sound vibrates off the film, and comes out sounding better than you'd expect. Plug it into your MP3 player, and you've got sound to go, in any size or shape.
The company even sees a day when people attach the speakers to their clothing for ultraportable sound.
FleXpeaker also proves that you can get good sound without using a lot of power. The skinny speaker uses a fraction of the energy of your home set, so it saves money, while taxing the power grid a lot less.
Even if it turns out to be something of a novelty itself, it's worth keeping an eye on the technology, which looks to be a game changer.
Where will we see it next? The answer, my friend, like the speaker itself in a moderate breeze, is blowin' in the wind.