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Check out this awesome project from a couple of Eastern Washington students.
If you have ever been within earshot of SparkFun's shipping department during the workday, you have probably heard some pretty decent beats (or beatz?) coming from the area. It is a not-so-well-kept secret that SparkFun employees like to blast tunes during work hours. In fact, it has been shown to increase workplace productivity by 89%* (*in a non-scientific poll conducted by me just seconds ago).
Which brings us the project you see above - this is a plasma speaker created by Brian Hainey and Chris Lewis, engineering students at Eastern Washington University. The speaker above is not your typical sound output device, but rather features a TL494 PWM chip which provides a 45 kHz "carrier" signal onto which audio can be modulated. This transmits audio data that is detected by a microphone in Matlab (you remember Matlab right? Of course you do...), and then processed with Simulink to generate text data.
This is a very cool project that is sure to impress your friends at your next party. Check out Brian's webpage - MuskratMicros - to see more about the plasma speaker, learn about some other awesome projects, or just see a picture of Brian heaterizing a peep (hopefully he read the instructions). Great work Brian and Chris!