Noise Machine Update [Miles]

This is an update for my “BIP” noise machine – a swallowable microphone. Since this concept seems infeasible technically (I researched “swallowable telemetry capsule” to no avail), I intend to build something more modest that still addresses bodily noise. To that end, I’d like to build a personal stethoscope, where the bell (the hollow cup) is made to be affixed roof of one’s mouth using an adhesive pad.

My updated concept relates to Andre Borges’ 2011 performance “Inside-Out” (Chris posted this to the blog a few days ago), in that it uses the human body as a source of sound.

I am interested in the introspective potential of this device for individual users. I’d like the inside of the mouth to become a laboratory for acoustical experimentation, beyond just a functional passage for food. So if this is to be a personal noise machine, I think the formfactor should be subtle rather than attention grabbing. The listening component of the device could be as “simple” (conceptually at least) as a pair of earbuds with a transducer at the end.

Like this?


• How do I power the transducer and attenuate the signal it produces? I don’t want anyone to go deaf using this!

• How can I ensure that the transducer is sanitary to put in a mouth? Where does one store the transducer-end of the device when they aren’t using it?

• How can I design the transducer-end such that eating and talking are possible?

• How can I reduce the risk of distortion, if the transducer is in close proximity to the sounds being made?

• Is this really a noise machine? If not, how can I make it more like one?

– Miles


5 thoughts on “Noise Machine Update [Miles]

  1. Hey Miles,

    Love where you’re going with this. I wonder if a homemade contact mic might be what you’re looking for? You would definitely want to add layers of waterproofing – plastidip, and then perhaps a balloon. Also as an extra precaution stick with battery-powered equipment. Nicolas Collins makes a brief mention of this idea in his handmade electronic music book. I think there’s a copy in the library.

    With a contact mic in this scenario you wouldn’t run into feedback issues, since contact mics are touch-sensitive, and don’t pick up vibrations through the air.

    Out of curiosity, is it straight up, live, chewing/swallowing sounds you are going for, or you want the sound to be modified in any way?

    Love the personal noise machine idea — we should talk more. I’ll bring in my homemade stethoscope mic tomorrow (nothing too special, and likely not relevant for this application, but couldn’t hurt to share). Another thing you might google is ‘auscultation’ – the practice of listening to the body for diagnostic purposes. Not directly related, but you could find some interesting stuff.


  2. Hi Miles,

    I do believe this qualifies as a noise machine, even if it is meant for an audience of one. I like the concept of amplifying body sounds we are not normally aware (or hyper aware) of for the possible outcome of reanalyzing the capabilities of our physical ‘housing.’

    I am afraid I do not have much to offer in the way of your technical questions (attenuating the signal and reducing distortion), but something that immediately occurred to me on reading your post was the thought to imbed the transducer in hard candy – basically creating a lollipop. Of course, this may create more problems, such as producing a watertight container for the transducer… But maybe that is something you would need to tackle anyway?

    Another option… I Googled “swallow on a string” and found this:

    You asked about where one might store the transducer-end when not in use. This presents a nice opportunity to introduce a visual component, if this is of interest. Perhaps the storage container could be a mini boom box to share the sounds with others? Of course, that would make it necessary to first record the sounds as they are being created.


  3. The mic doesn’t necessarily have to be inside the mouth to pick up mouth noises. In-ear mics pick up mouth noises pretty well, for example (while preserving directionality so the resulting recording sounds like it’s coming from your mouth). You could also experiment with contact mics attached to various parts of the head.

  4. I think this is a really cool idea! And I think it is probably good to go about keeping the microphone sanitary in similar ways that you would keep medical equipment sanitary- you could probably find something cheap and convenient like those plastic disposable covers that they use for mouth thermometers. The only issue would be that if there was something on the microphone, it would interfere with the noise you are really trying to get – although maybe the addition of that noise could be interesting too?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s