Years before the iPod was a thing, many of us relied on an app called Winamp to listen to MP3s. It was free, it was simple, but most of us used it for its visualisers that created complex, trippy animations synced to our music. Artist Dakd Jung has created a real-life version of those visualisers with a custom ferrofluid-filled Bluetooth speaker that also looks like a lava lamp come to life.
Invented by a Nasa engineer as a way to pump rocket fuel in a zero-G weightless environment, ferrofluid is created by mixing a magnetic material, like tiny iron filings, with a liquid mixture that prevents the particles from sticking together. It flows like a liquid, but it also reacts to the presence of a magnetic field, allowing it to be moved around and animated without the need for physical interactions. It’s most often used for desk toys, but Dakd Jung has found an even better use for it.
Although the Bluetooth speaker’s custom housing came from a 3D printer which often leaves creations looking decidedly hacked together, Jung sanded and painted it until its finish resembled a high-end piece of consumer electronics you’d find on the shelf at the Apple Store. Hidden away inside are three upward-firing speaker drivers, a compact amplifier, and a Bluetooth module so it can be wirelessly connected to an audio source.
What’s not hidden is a round glass container sitting front and centre illuminated by a set of white LEDs. Inside it is a blob of ferrofluid suspended in a clear liquid that doesn’t do anything when the speaker is turned off. But thanks to an electromagnet mounted behind the glass container whose power is controlled by an Arduino Nano based on the music being played, the ferrofluid comes to life and dances around, tears itself apart, and re-solidifies in sync to the tunes. In addition to volume, a second dial on the speaker’s face controls the specific audio frequency the ferrofluid responds to, allowing it to selectively react to a song’s treble or bass depending on which is more emphatic in the mix.