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!