Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

In February 2020, a group of computer scientists at the University Of Chicago (UChicago) in Illinois 3D printed a bracelet with the ability to jam microphones via emission of ultrasonic waves. This is mainly intended to stop smart speakers eavesdropping on the conversations of the masses, such as Alexa and Siri from multinational technology companies Amazon of Seattle, Washington, and Apple of Cupertino, California, respectively. However, for reasons unknown UChicago’s press release was not dated, as of March 18th 2020 the doi link on it doesn’t work, and the paper linked was dated for the end of April 2020.

The device is based on an exploit such that when what UChicago referred to as “commodity microphones” are exposed to ultrasonic noise they leak it into the audible range of human hearing, creating a jamming signal that disrupts the listening device’s voice recording. (UChicago failed to properly define their use of the word “commodity”.) The researchers proclaimed that by having the bracelet’s speakers arranged in a ring layout, it jams in multiple directions without requiring the user to manually point it at the listening device. They argued that previous similar devices had to be properly pointed in the direction of the microphone to work properly, as well as rely on multiple speakers that would create blind spots from where the emitted sound waves interfered with each other. The bracelet’s design avails itself of the user’s natural gesticulations, circumventing the blind spot problem. The researchers’ results even showed that the device could jam microphones that were obscured by various materials, including cloth and pieces of paper.

The researchers unsurprisingly argue that the masses are becoming increasingly nervous about smart speakers constantly listening to them and recording their speech, as well as the possibility of smart speakers saving sensitive personal information. However, this blatantly ignores the argument that it is objectively unnecessary to ever own a smart speaker. Technology news and reviews website Engadget argued there existed a number of concerns with the device if it was not used responsibility. For example, politicians could use it to avoid accountability, and there is an obvious risk of the device interfering with people’s phone calls if it is worn in public.

The researchers claim that the bracelet could be manufactured for as little as $20 and that a few investors have asked them about commercializing it. However, where this has gone is unknown and it remains just a prototype for now.

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Disclaimer: Featured image of “Benjamin West – Isaac’s servant tying the bracelet on Rebecca’s arm – Google Art Project” is in the public domain as it is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The author of the work of art itself died in 1820, ergo it is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.