Zoe Laughlin, designer, maker and materials engineer, is fascinated by the science and technology hidden within the everyday objects we take for granted. In this series she dismantles and dissects three classic items to understand the wonders of form, function and material that go into making them, before building her own truly bespoke versions step by step.
In this episode, Zoe explores an item that is extraordinarily intimate and transports us to other worlds – headphones. With 12 pairs sold globally every second, Zoe is on a mission to build her own unique pair. In search of inspiration, she heads to Hull University to discover an exciting new substance that can turn any surface into a speaker, from a wall to a table and even the bone of your skull. In the depths of an anechoic chamber, she experiences the wonder behind directional sound and ear-tracking technology, which creates a personal sound bubble without the need to wear headphones at all.
A trip back through headphone history reveals the stethoscope-style home contraptions of the 19th century and the game-changing 80s Sony Walkman. Zoe also heads to high-end manufacturers Bowers & Wilkins, climbs into a mock aircraft cabin to explore the principles of noise cancellation, and goes on a trip down one of London’s busiest streets with a billboard-style contraption slung across her body, all in the name of material research. Her final headphones raise the bar high, with a distinctive headband to avoid big hair issues, alongside characterful Plasti Dip connections.