What Is Self-Playing Media?

Self-Playing Media (SPM) is technically, media such as audio or video with its own battery power source and able to play spontaneously without dependence on any external device. The user activates the media by pressing a button, opening a page or panel on a package, or by a simple action such as moving in a vicinity. In practical terms, SPM is media that just plays… at the right moment, in the appropriate context, with maximum impact and without mediation.

Why Self-Playing Media Matters

We live in an age where the cost of capturing and holding attention is higher than ever. We want to connect with multitaskers, glued to smart devices, delivering convergent messages across multiple platforms.  Self-playing media has the unique, inherent ability to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy that captures the attention of its target audience and gives the message a momentary opportunity to connect without interference.

Examples of Self-Playing Media

Self-Playing Media in the form of a video card, educates health care professionals

Self-Playing Video Cards

Building off our success with audio mailers, our clients in Pharma, Financial Services and Insurance wanted to utilize video to increase the impact and response rates of their marketing to high-value clients.  Using long-term relationships with both factories and chip suppliers we were able to create the supply chain necessary to provide self-playing video cards with the high fidelity video display and high quality offset printing that our clients demand and at a competitive price.

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Self-Playing media is used to animate Intel package

Intel’s Audio Packaging

Intel, the invisible computing brand that created the Intel Inside® campaign and the iconic Intel Sonic logo asked us to provide the audio chip technology and supply chain necessary to animate the packaging of their new Next Unit of Computing (NUC). Since the product was to ship in two months and the packaging had already been designed, Intel needed all of the experience, vertical technology and manufacturing resources that Voice Express had to offer. We did not disappoint.

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Build-A-Bear Workshop uses Self-Playing Media Digital Sound for it's New Hear-Me Station

Build-a-Bear’s Universal Sound

Voice Express worked with long-time partner Build-A-Bear Workshop®, to develop a wirelessly programmable Universal Sound Module (UM). In conjunction with their creation kiosk; the new Digital HearMe Station, the UM reduces the number of SKUs to be maintained, reduces time to market for new sounds and improves personalization though the record-your-own sound capabilities. The project is a resounding success, bringing double-digit increases in sound sales.

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Self-Playing Media Components

Media Delivery

Self-playing media delivers combinations of sound, video, movement and light and image. Sound delivery ranges from a simple buzzer to high fidelity dynamic speakers. Video is displayed on standard and HD LCD screens both passive and touch-enabled. Movement is achieved through mini-vibrators or exciters which transfer vibration or harmonic movement beyond the device itself or return tactile feedback to the user. Visual effects are achieved using programmed LEDs, fiber optics, or electroluminescence. 

Power Source

Self-playing media is powered by standard coin or button cell batteries or if the application requires, formed lithium ion or even printed membrane batteries. Batteries can be rechargeable and are always composed of lead-free and environmentally approved materials.

Media Processor

Last but not least, self-playing media utilizes a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) or media processing chip (IC) which controls the compilation, playback and if desired, capture and recording of the media.


The media itself is stored in a memory component. Available components include:

  • Mask ROM (high volume requirements, low-cost, typically 60-90 day lead time)
  • OTP – One-time programmable chips (lower minimum order quantity with shorter lead time)
  • Programmable chips (typically utilizes flash memory coupled with a processor chip)
  • Recordable chips which can include a variety of media capture components (such as a microphone or camera)


Self-playing media is activated using a wide variety of available triggers. Common examples of triggers include:

  • Slide switches (e.g. opening a greeting card)
  • Pressure sensitive buttons
  • Light sensors (e.g. opening a box)
  • Spring loaded triggers (e.g. removing a cap on a container)
  • Motion activated (e.g. walking by a display)
  • Capacitive sensors (e.g. human touch)
  • Sound triggers (e.g. responding to a sound or phrase)
  • Magnetic switches

Even as we become increasingly reliant on universal devices such as smart phones to deliver all of our content, all of the time,  there is a growing movement towards embedding information and media directly into the products we use at particular moments and during our daily routines. Whether in our cars or our kitchens technology is permitting us to interact with our tools and environment as never before.  Wearable media, whether in the form of Nike’s FuelBand wristband, the Jawbone UP or Google GLASS digital eyeglasses are an expression of this same trend.

At Voice Express we focus on integrating self-playing media into print, play, packaging, gift giving, image sharing and every other context where we, our clients and our loved ones interact with objects that have a message to deliver.While we continue to address the demand for self playing media in the Point-of-Sale, Toy and advertising space, we have a vision where self-playing media becomes embedded into more and more everyday items and in ways that we and our partners can only begin to imagine.

How Voice Express Can Help

Our most satisfied customers are those who come to us with a deep knowledge of their market and product, with an existing brand and distribution channel in place. As Sy Syms the great retailer said: “an educated consumer is our best customer”.  Likewise we look for clients who understand their brand and want to learn how self-playing media can increase the perceived value of their product/service and communicate more directly with their users.

If that sounds like you, let’s talk and explore how we can help you use self-playing media to communicate more directly with your customers and clients.

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