Remember when your orthodontist said you could get a flavored retainer and you were all Glitter? Pshh. I want my mouth gear watermelon-flavored or not at all! Well, prepare to feel like a dated, oldtimey loser: Aisen Chacin, a Design and Technology student at Parsons the New School for Design, has created a music-playing mouth piece that uses bone conduction to transmit sounds waves—painlessly, wirelessly—via vibration through your teeth!
The "Play-a-Grill"—not to be confused with playa grill, which means beach grill and populates most of the search results for Chacin's invention—was created by casting a mould of Chacin's mouth, then from that creating a wax model of her top teeth and cobbling it together with some hacked parts from a conventional MP3 player.
The vibrations are only heard, not felt, so the wearer needn't concern herself with thoughts of a mouth-music headache. Though, Chacin told TIME, "If the music is loud enough the concave shape of the palate makes the vibrations of bone conduction resonate, resulting in a mouth speaker."
Imagine a 6th grade classroom: twenty or more 12-year-olds sitting at their desks, clicking their retainers in their mouths—like ya do—and all of them simultaneously blaring a different pop song with every jaw drop and yawn.
On a more serious note, this is actually a very innovative piece of technology, and if developed beyond Chacin's prototype, the mouthpiece's tongue controls could prove quite advantageous to those with limited mobility or some forms of paralysis.
I reached out to Aisen Chacin, and here is what she had to say about her invention:
My work dabbles on the cusp of science through interaction design, and devices for interfacing the body.
The idea for this device came about learning about bone conduction, and the fact that sound waves can travel through solids as well as air. I have seen a few mistakes in the press about this listening process, it is not the eardrum that we listen through with bone conduction. There is a motor connected to the output jack of the mp3 player, you can see this in the prototype videos that have been going around. This motor then vibrates to the frequency of the sound, when bitten your teeth oscillate to the same frequency. Because your teeth are embedded in the jaw, which is very close to your ears, the inner ear bones also oscillate allowing the nerve to process this vibration as sound information. It is practically the same process that happens with cochlear implants, except that listening through the teeth is not as invasive- it of course less effective (loud) because of the distance.
I thought that grills were musically related objects, they are this arbitrary music fashion object. With the idea of teeth bone conduction hearing brewing in my mind, it clicked! Grills are worn over teeth- perfect opportunity to make an arbitrary music object the player itself through bone conduction.