The Auditory Augmented Seashell was part of my graduation project. It was about exploring ways to perceive the ocean. Light doesn’t travel far in water, however, sound travels many miles underwater. With this concept in mind, ‘Looking’ the ocean doesn’t make much sense. What about listening to the ocean?

The Auditory Augmented Seashell is basically a normal seashell capable of producing other sounds than that it’s already making. Normally a seashell produces a resonance, hearable when you put a shell against your ear. The folk myth is that you can hear the ocean in a seashell. Now, we know that this is not true, but what would happen if you had a seashell that could actually produce sounds of the ocean?

To answer this question I build, what I like to call, an Auditory Augmented Seashell. So far I made two prototypes which I like to share with you. I am very interested in what you think and what kind of wild ideas you have with this peculiar seashell!

Step 1

The first Auditory Augmented Seashell is a very simple project you can do. First grab what you will need:

-a small seashell
-a pair of earphones (maybe some old salvaged ones?)
-a hot glue gun or some ordinary glue
-some scissors or cutting pliers

We’re first going to get rid of the earphone’s housing as it is to big to fit in the seashell. Carefully use the cutting pliers to cut the housing away, be careful not to cut the wire! What you should finish with is just a small speaker that is still attached to the wires.

The second step is to cut one of the earphones off right were the cord starts separating. If you are using a salvaged earphone, make sure you don’t cut the only working piece. You could also skip this step if you want a stereo seashell 😛

Next, start tucking the small speaker in the seashell, it helps to use a strong magnet on the outside to really get that speaker as far in the seashell as it can go.

Apply glue to the earphone wire so that it doesn’t come off.

Now surf to http://www.freesound.org/   connect your Auditory Augmented Seashell with your computer using the earphone jack, find a nice beach/ocean sound on the website, put the seashell against your ear and start relaxing! And of course, share it with others!

Step 2

The second prototype of an Auditory Augmented Seashell is a bit more difficult than the first one. It requires a larger seashell and a bit more electronics.

Go grab what you will need:

-a seashell
-a bluetooth headset (I used a Samsung HM1000, really tiny and super-cheap!)
-a bluetooth capable phone or laptop
-some screwdrivers, cutting pliers or your favorite destruction tools
-a bit of thin wire

The first step is to dismantle the headset, get rid of everything we do not need, as this headset will get a new enclosure. The headset will probably not include any screws so try to use a screwdriver to get in between the plastic parts and wedge the housing open. Carefully detach the speaker in the same fashion as described in the previous step with the earphones. Make sure you don’t destroy or disconnect the battery, don’t trash any of the buttons. Unless you also want to make calls with your seashell you can salvage the microphone. You will be done if you end up with a nice looking electronics board and a battery and speaker hanging to it.

Next we will make use of some hi-tech tampon technology!  Attach a small piece of wire to the electronics board. You will use this to  easily remove the guts of the Auditory Augmented Seashell when it runs out of  battery! Choose a color wire that blends with the color of the seashell, make it just long enough for you to grab it, tuck it away somewhere.

Now switch on the bluetooth headset and connect it with your computer or phone. When I used my computer I could play music to it right away by indicating my computer to use it as an audio device. I tried using my iPhone and ran into some trouble, the problem is that the headset I had was mono, and my phone refused to play something stereo onto something mono, which is pretty silly I think. I ended up using the app ‘A2DPblocker’, which can be found in the app store somewhere (cost me a few cents). The app will let my iPhone play mp3’s to the headset using some kind of workaround.

And voila! Your done! You made the coolest seashell out there! There will probably be a few led’s on the headset which produce a nice (side)-effect! Time to amaze your friends and relatives with you Auditory Augmented Seashell.

Step 3

To finish this Instructable here are some final thoughts:

You can download all sorts of sounds and play them through your seashell, some will work better than others. Low frequencies are less audible in a seashell than higher frequencies.

I experimented with giving the seashell a certain sound for each moon phase. Maybe you can think of something interesting to make the seashell more interactive. Use Processing or Max/msp or any other program to change the sound when perhaps its the right time to go to the beach and collect more seashells? Maybe hear traveling sea mammals along your coast?

Putting the seashell on and off is a bit inconvenient if you have to pull out the guts of the seashell every time. Maybe some kind of tilt switch could be used to be able to switch the seashell on and off without much trouble.

I made a nice stand for my seashell’s, if you happen to have no seashell you can always 3D print one! 😉

I started this project with the phenomena that sea creatures mostly use their ears and not their eyes as light is scattered by water. I was also fascinated by this folk myth of hearing the ocean in a seashell, something we probably all experienced. With the Auditory Augmented Seashell it was my intention to explore how such a device could aid in becoming more aware of the (sounds in the) ocean. Still much work has to be put in making this thing more than a gadget and give it some kind of longer lasting value or experience for people.

I am not sure if I will continue this project, creatively I am a bit stuck, that’s why I am making this Instructable, I’m hoping that your ideas can inspire me and maybe get a ‘kickstart’ in the good direction!

Love to see all of your ideas!