All You Need To Know About I2S

Last month we marked the 40th birthday of the CD, and it was as much an obituary as a celebration because those polycarbonate discs are fast becoming a rarity. There is one piece of technology from the CD age that is very much still with us though, and it lives on in the standard for sending serial digital audio between chips. The protocol is called I2S and comes as a hardware peripheral on many microcontrollers. It’s a surprisingly simple interface that’s quite easy to work with and thus quite hackable, so it’s worth a bit of further investigation.

It’s A Simple Enough Interface

Don’t confuse this with the other Philips Semiconductor protocol: I2C. Inter-Integrated Circuit protocol has the initials IIC, and the double letter was shortened to come up with the “eye-squared-see” nomenclature we’ve come to love from I2C. Brought to life in 1982, this predated I2S by four years which explains the somewhat strange abbreviation for “Inter-Integrated Circuit Sound”.

The protocol has stuck around because it’s very handy for dealing with the firehose of serial data associated with high-quality digital audio. It’s so handy that you’ve likely heard of it being used for other purposes than audio, which I’ll get to in a little bit. But first, what does I2S actually do?

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Arduboy Goes Thin And Flexible For Portable Gaming

We all have a gaming system in our pocket or purse and some of us are probably reading on it right now. That pocket space is valuable so we have to budget what we keep in there and adding another gaming system is not in the cards, if it takes up too much space. [Kevin Bates] budgeted the smallest bit of pocket real estate for his full-size Arduboy clone, Arduflexboy. It is thin and conforms to his pocket because the custom PCB uses a flexible substrate and he has done away with the traditional tactile buttons.

Won’t a flexible system be hard to play? Yes. [Kevin] said it himself, and while we don’t disagree, a functional Arduboy on a flexible circuit makes up for practicality by being a neat manufacturing demonstration. This falls under the because-I-can category but the thought that went into it is also evident. All the components mount opposite the screen so it looks clean from the front and the components will not be subject to as much flexing and the inputs are in the same place as a traditional Arduboy.

cost = low, practicality = extremely low, customer service problems = high

     ~[Kevin Bates]

These flexible circuit boards use a polyimide substrate, the same stuff as Kapton tape, and ordering boards is getting cheaper so we can expect to see more of them popping up. Did we mention that we currently have a contest for flexible circuits? We have prizes that will make you sing, just for publishing your flex PCB concept.

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Bone Conducting Headphones Built Into Eye Glasses

There are times when being seen to listen to music through headphones might get you into trouble. For these moments, reach for a handy solution: bone conduction speakers that discreetly pipe the music to your eardrums through the bone of your skull. [Samuel] wanted just such a covert music listening device, so created his own in a set of 3D-printed glasses.

He first tried using an Adafruit bone-conducting transducer but found that to be too bulky. What you see here is a smaller module that [Samuel] found on AliExpress (search for bone conduction module). The GD-02 is much smaller and thus more suitable for hiding in the arm of a pair of glasses. For the rest of the electronics he used a PCB and battery from a donated set of broken Bluetooth headphones, a space for which he was able to conceal easily in the 3D-printed frame of the glasses. The battery is in one arm and the board in the other, and he says the wiring was extremely fiddly.

The result is a surprisingly svelte set of specs that you might not immediately think concealed some electronics. His choice of bright yellow filament might give the game away, but overall he’s done a great job. This certainly isn’t the first bone conduction project we’ve shown you, some of the others have used motors instead of bone conduction transducers.