Build Your Own Auditory Augmented Seashell!




About: Hi, I'm currently doing my Master in Industrial Design. I appreciate the idea of sharing and building cool things together.

In this Instructable I will explain how to build your own Auditory Augmented Seashell. Now, before we start, what is an Auditory Augmented Seashell?

Answer: basicly it's a seashell capable of producing other sounds than that it's already making. Normally a seashell produces a resonance, hearable when you put a shell against your ear. The folk myth is that you can hear the ocean in a seashell. Now, we know that this is not true, but what would happen if you had a seashell that could actually produce sounds of the ocean?

To answer this question I build, what I like to call, an Auditory Augmented Seashell. So far I made two prototypes which I like to share with you. I am very interessted in what you think and what kind of wild ideas you have with this peculiar seashell!

Step 1:

The first Auditory Augmented Seashell is a very simple project you can do. First grab what you will need:

-a small seashell
-a pair of earphones (maybe some old salvaged ones?)
-a hot glue gun or some ordinary glue
-some scissors or cutting pliers

We're first going to get rid of the earphone's housing as it is to big to fit in the seashell. Carefully use the cutting pliers to cut the housing away, be careful not to cut the wire! What you should finish with is just a small speaker that is still attached to the wires.

The second step is to cut one of the earphones off right were the cord starts separating. If you are using a salvaged earphone, make sure you don't cut the only working piece. You could also skip this step if you want a stereo seashell :P

Next, start tucking the small speaker in the seashell, it helps to use a strong magnet on the outside to really get that speaker as far in the seashell as it can go.

Apply glue to the earphone wire so that it doesn't come off.

Now surf to   connect your Auditory Augmented Seashell with your computer using the earphone jack, find a nice beach/ocean sound on the website, put the seashell against your ear and start relaxing! And of course, share it with others!

Step 2:

The second prototype of an Auditory Augmented Seashell is a bit more difficult than the first one. It requires a larger seashell and a bit more electronics.

Go grab what you will need:

-a seashell
-a bluetooth headset (I used a Samsung HM1000, really tiny and super-cheap!)
-a bluetooth capable phone or laptop
-some screwdrivers, cutting pliers or your favorite destruction tools
-a bit of thin wire

The first step is to dismantle the headset, get rid of everything we do not need, as this headset will get a new enclosure. The headset will probably not include any screws so try to use a screwdriver to get in between the plastic parts and wedge the housing open. Carefully detach the speaker in the same fashion as described in the previous step with the earphones. Make sure you don't destroy or disconnect the battery, don't trash any of the buttons. Unless you also want to make calls with your seashell you can salvage the microphone. You will be done if you end up with a nice looking electronics board and a battery and speaker hanging to it.

Next we will make use of some hi-tech tampon technology!  Attach a small piece of wire to the electronics board. You will use this to  easily remove the guts of the Auditory Augmented Seashell when it runs out of  battery! Choose a color wire that blends with the color of the seashell, make it just long enough for you to grab it, tuck it away somewhere.

Now switch on the bluetooth headset and connect it with your computer or phone. When I used my computer I could play music to it right away by indicating my computer to use it as an audio device. I tried using my iPhone and ran into some trouble, the problem is that the headset I had was mono, and my phone refused to play something stereo onto something mono, which is pretty silly I think. I ended up using the app 'A2DPblocker', which can be found in the app store somewhere (cost me a few cents). The app will let my iPhone play mp3's to the headset using some kind of workaround. 

And voila! Your done! You made the coolest seashell out there! There will probably be a few led's on the headset which produce a nice (side)-effect! Time to amaze your friends and relatives with you Auditory Augmented Seashell.

Step 3:

To finish this Instructable here are some final thoughts:

You can download all sorts of sounds and play them through your seashell, some will work better than others. Low frequencies are less audible in a seashell than higher frequencies.

I experimented with giving the seashell a certain sound for each moon phase. Maybe you can think of something interesting to make the seashell more interactive. Use Processing or Max/msp or any other program to change the sound when perhaps its the right time to go to the beach and collect more seashells? Maybe hear traveling sea mammals along your coast?

Putting the seashell on and off is a bit inconvenient if you have to pull out the guts of the seashell every time. Maybe some kind of tilt switch could be used to be able to switch the seashell on and off without much trouble.

I made a nice stand for my seashell's, in the picture you can also see a 3D printed nautilus seashell, if you happen to have no seashell you can always print one! ;)

I started this project were I was interested in the phenomena that sea creatures mostly use their ears and not their eyes as light is scattered by water. I was also fascinated by this folk myth of hearing the ocean in a seashell, something we probably all experienced. With the Auditory Augmented Seashell it was my intention to explore how such a device could aid in becoming more aware of the (sounds in the) ocean. Still much work has to be put in making this thing more than a gadget and give it some kind of longer lasting value or experience for people.

I am not sure if I will continue this project, creatively I am a bit stuck, that's why I am making this Instructable, I'm hoping that your ideas can inspire me and maybe get a 'kickstart' in the good direction!

Love to see all of your ideas!



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    15 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Never knew about , very cool site and this is a cool project. Might try to make it cordless with a mercury switch so it comes on when you pick it up.

    Thanks for sharing.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks frits297, I should have read the whole thing first and saved you having to point out the obvious. I like it a lot.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea of not shelling out a lot on speakers! Shades of 1000 Leagues Under The Sea, Kirk and jules would be proud.

    Maybe you could drill a hole at the small end of the shell and feed the wire out there instead of the front to hide it better? Or you could make a slightly larger hole that the earpiece just fits into to save destroying the earpiece. This could also work with your bluetooth, with the bluetooth hidden either in the stand or behind the shell, and just feeding the sound in.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very neat idea. I like Kiteman's idea for using it in aquaria, too.
    My partner and I run science activities in schools. In one, we pass around a large shell so the class can listen to the sea or, as one kid said last week, the toilet flushing (sigh).
    Any idea how a sound source could be concealed in a good size shell, and either remotely triggered or triggered on a timer? That is, no cable or other sign it is there. It could be fun.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, the bigger shell in this Instructable uses a bluetooth module, it has no wires going to it and the electronics are not visible from the outside. You might want to cover the blue LED which is causing the light hence it gives a clue that this is not a normal shell, but on the other hand, this might be more exciting for kids. Other than that, the sound source is concealed, timing could happen through your (bluetooth capable) phone or laptop


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I have such bad luck: found a seashell on the beach, put it to the ear, and it gave me a busy tone...

    2 replies

    That's so cool. Going to have to try that. I have loads of sea shells as well.
    For other people who want shells like that they can get a pack of averaged sized shells at a dollar store, craft store or some garage sale.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is perfect! I have a ton of big shells lying around, but nothing to do with them.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome - I can see this idea being used at aquaria - pick up a big shell an you can listen to something interesting about the tanks you are near.