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"The Illusion Of Life" Machine Can Mimic Human Whispers

Designer Minsu Kim's new machine has the power to simulate soft, sweet nothings.
April 15, 2014, 7:30pm

In an age of prosthetic limbs, 3D-printed organs, and artificial intelligence, intimacy seems to be one of the few irreplaceable facets to remain uniquely human. Minsu Kim, a designer educated at the Royal College of Art, has decided to turn this notion on its head by creating The Illusion of Life, a machine that imitates perhaps the most intimate form of human communication: the whisper.

It's all science: to create The Illusion of Life, Kim used two Ambu bags to simulate the lungs, and silicon air valves and a nozzle for the throat and mouth, respectively. Activated by a motion detector, the whisper effect emerges from a small speaker hooked up to separate humidity and temperature control units. Together, the all-too-accurate invention simulates even the gentlest breaths and lowest vocal tones of our most private conversations.


"The machine gives an impression of human whispering by mimicking the intricacies of human physiology," Kim says. "Breath temperature, humidity, smell, and vocal qualities. It augments emotional subtleties and imprints them onto our senses."

According to his his website, Kim hopes to point out the discrepancy between modern inventors' focuses on sight (increasing image resolution ad nauseum), but their seeming neglect for our other senses.

So what will life mean when machines can reproduce its nuances? While our immediate instincts peeked over the edge of the uncanny valley, our second thoughts led to the sweet nothings our robo-buddies might console us with, in the wake of human rejection. Below, check out The Illusion of Life, an errant glimpse into an ever-mechanized future.