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Technology: A Smart Cushion that Makes you hear and feel the sound at the same time

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No matter where we live on this planet, usage of audiovisual devices has become a vital part of our day to day life.
At some point, we all use some sorts of sound systems to cater our needs, either for listening to music or watching a movie or for gaming or simply for enjoying a TV show. From time to time we have been introduced to Stereophonic Hi-Fi systems to wired headphones to wireless headphones to nowadays wireless portable speakers. No doubt this evolution of audio technology has enriched our listening experiences in lots of ways. But have we ever thought that we can actually feel the sound physically at the same time when we are hearing it? No matter if we have thought or not, one company in Finland has thought about it.

Flexound Systems Oy, a Finnish start-up company, has introduced HUMU earlier this year, a personal smart cushion that allows it’s users to enjoy a unique multisensory experience: hearing the audio and feeling the sound waves at the same time. Flexound HUMU is a very good quality near-field device and the first ever of it’s kind which turns sound waves into synchronized vibrations which actually can be felt throughout the skin. According to official HUMU website, “HUMU”, a Finnish word, means “humming” or “commotion”. Apparently, it also refers to HUman MUsic.

In a conversation with The Locus, Mervi Heinaro, the CEO of Flexound Systems Oy, talked about the company and the tale behind creating the HUMU-

The Locus: What was the reason behind the concept of creating HUMU?

Mervi: The original idea for the innovation started from autistic children. The wife of our inventor Jukka Linjama (Ph.D. in Acoustics and Vibration), is an occupational therapist, who’s worked 30 years with autistic and disabled children. In a discussion with her colleagues came the idea for a therapy tool combining unlimited sound content and the calming physical distributed vibration of the sound waves came up. Requested by his wife Mirja, Jukka set to work and came up with a solution and noticed no other company had done this.

The Locus: How the concept developed and finally came to life?’

Mervi: In the beginning of 2015, me and Tommi Immonen (COO of Flexound Systems Oy) joined Jukka and Mirja and started the work for commercializing the idea and Taikofon, our first product was born. We first meant it to only be a therapy tool to be used with kids, but very soon realized that the feelsound players we built by hand feel and sound so good and make people so happy that we must make it available to everyone. Thus during autumn 2016, we started creating a feelsound device that could be manufactured on a larger scale with technical etc. improvements and design perfected for listening. Finally, this spring 2017 Flexound HUMU was born and we’re very proud of it.

smart cushion mervi heinaro
Mervi Heinaro, CEO of Flexound Systems Oy
Credit: Mervi Heinaro

The Locus: Now as the HUMU is out for general people, what kind of reaction are you getting from around the world?

Mervi: Beautiful reactions. When people test it for the first time and especially when they have no prior expectations, they give the broad smile we call the “Flexound smile”. The unexpected pleasant feeling when they experience something totally new but so natural. And noticing that you get to a new level and have your emotion enhanced with the touch of the music. I just love to watch that reaction.

Music fans, gamers, movie lovers, those who want to just relax, people of different ages just seem to love it. People enjoy it most when they play the content they already like as HUMU give an additional dimension to it. You can also check. Two weeks ago we made a research among gamers in LINK(ChinaJoy). Overall their score was 4.4/5.

We’ve just filmed some reactions on street, and have loads of photos of people’s smile. It’s our mission to make people happy and help them enjoy the sound and music with multiple senses, not only with their hearing.

HUMU opens music also for those who have impaired hearing – there are great stories about this too.

The Locus: What is the next step? What kind of plan you have for HUMU for coming days? As a company, are you developing ideas for future products?

Mervi: We’re now opening sales channels step by step. Next week we should launch in JD.Com in China and two off-line retail chains, in Europe we’re already in Amazon UK, France and Germany and coming to retail, in the US we’re in the b8ta.com etc. New web pages for HUMU are opening also within a week. Sharing the joy, little by little.

We have many ideas for future development – we also get them from our customers. So more to come! We’d love feelsound technology to be available for wider utilization, which is why we also license our tech to other producers. The patented Flexound Xperience module can be integrated into cushions, but also e.g. seats and furniture. Cars, cinemas, recliners, gaming equipment – this belongs everywhere you want to get a multisensory audio experience.

The Locus: Can you please tell us a little bit about Flexound Systems Oy?

Mervi: Flexound Systems is Espoo based Finnish start-up, but we also have a subsidiary in Shanghai. We’ve been awarded in Finnish start-up competitions and e.g. were an SLUSH100 company in December 2016. A Crazy creative innovative international small team from the country of the Santa Claus and thousands of lakes and the amazing aurora borealis.

Now let’s get back to HUMU and see what it has to offer for it’s users.

Specification

Physical Dimension: 480mm*270mm*145mm
Weight: 1.46 kg
Battery: Lithium Polymer 3.7 V, 5.5 Wh
Playtime: Up to 8 hours with full battery
Frequency range: 15 Hz to 20 kHz
Bluetooth: 4.2, A2DP audio protocol; connection distance of 10m
AUX: 3.5mm socket for stereo line in
Operation ambient temperature: 0°C to 35°C, non-condensing
Certificates: CCC, CE, and FCC

Design and Usability

The flexound HUMU is built using very simple, yet effective design. It has a handle on one side with small HUMU tag on it. On the other side, it has a latching flap, which is magnetic in nature, concealing an audio socket for stereo line in, a micro USB charging port and a single on/off button. There is an indicator LED as well. HUMU is a very comfy smart cushion. It is designed and manufactured so ingeniously that one simply cannot feel that there are built-in speakers inside unless he/she is informed. This smart cushion is available in two different cover materials: authentic leather and artificial suede (50 % polyurethane, 50 % nylon).

HUMU is very easy to operate and it is designed to be used in different positions to find a comfortable listening experience. When it comes to surfaces, a soft surface, for example: on a bed/sofa, vibrates and resonates together with HUMU and enhance the feeling of sound waves. But again, it also depends on different users and their personal preferences.

Verdict

Flexound HUMU is a great Bluetooth audio device that sounds great with it’s integrated speaker and the tactile material that creates vibration sensation throughout the body is amazing. This smart cushion is just fantastic for relaxation, meditation or just immersing into a movie, music or game. Overall this device is truly worth trying. At the end, it can be safely said that Flexound Systems has successfully justified it’s motto, “Connect it, hear it, feel it“!

Editing manager . Freelance writer . Freelance journalist

SMNA RAIHAN

Editing manager . Freelance writer . Freelance journalist

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