Cardboard Table-Speakers MkI

A few weeks ago, I walked into a store named “Chairigami” on Whitney street. The start up, founded by Zach Rotholz (A Yale alum), designs and builds furniture like chairs and table out of cardboard!

Last semester, I made speakers out of cardboard by attaching transducers to the back of cardboard boxes . The sound quality was surprisingly good and inspired me to think about alternative speaker designs. Although the frequency response of cardboard is nowhere near as flat as proper speakers, an amplifier with EQ was used to “tune” the surface of the speakers. A couple of materials and surfaces worked, but I found that cardboard boxes or panels worked really well. I suppose that cardboard is rigid enough to keep its shape and move air, but at the same time it is also pliant and able to deform according to the transducer.

However, one can go beyond just making cardboard vibrate. Cardboard, like paper, is easy to fold. Thus, one can also take advantage of cardboard’s form in adding another layer of functional form. For example, closing the lid in the “Music Box” project acts like a low pass filter. What if the speaker was designed with “foldable panels” that changed the directivity of the sound? There may be ways to “chain” multiple speakers together? What if the speaker could be “flat packed” and assembled on the spot?

To answer these questions, Zach and I started by outfitting one of his new standing desks with transducers on the underside of the desk area. Zach’s design is completely modular and foldable. All his furniture can be flat packed and assembled within minutes. His designs are very popular with trade show company’s that need cheap, functional and portable furniture.

Here is a demo of the first prototype in action!

The sound quality is surprisingly good and the volume incredibly loud for something as small as a basic cardboard desk! We are thinking of extending this idea to an “integrated” performance surface in which the speakers are integrated in the cardboard panels and the DJ/EDM controls are printed on the surface using “conductive ink” or “paper electronics”. I’ve been very inspired by Jie Qi’s work with paper electronics at the Media Lab and hope to incorporate these into the surface of the cardboard. This would integrate both input and output into a foldable and collapsible form factor!

You can check out media coverage of this collaboration through this link.

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