“Add Sound… Preserve the Quiet”
Inventor Woody Norris, 2005 winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize
The title of this blog post comes from the tagline of Audio Spotlight by Holosonic, a company specializing in focused audio technology.
So what exactly is this technology? SearchMobileComputing defines directional or isolated sound as “a technology that concentrates acoustic energy into a narrow beam so that it can be projected to a discrete area, much as a spotlight focuses light” akin to the light waves of a laser. It uses ultrasonic sound, a high frequency and focused wave, to carry sound information that manifests after it hits any solid object, recreating the original audio so it is audible to the human ear. It is almost as if the sound is “being created right at your ears.” Then, “if you step out of the beam, the waves have nothing to distort and mix them, so the inaudible ultrasonic waves slide silently past.”
I’ll leave it to physics-inclined experts to describe how the invention works in detail (click here to learn more about how it works) as I go on to talk about the major applications of this technology.
As a marketing tool:
- shopping malls – paired with either motion sensors or proximity detectors, various advertisements could target and attract customers on a more personal level. Wal-Mart has been looking into the technology, and as seen in the Youtube video below, stores have already implemented directional sound.
- pair with geotagging – to tie things back to my previous blog post, there is a huge opportunity for directional audio to work together with geotagging technologies to create highly innovative and interactive marketing campaigns
As an informational tool:
- guidance – if someone gets lost, they could follow voice instructions that can guide them to their destination without affecting the people around them. A realistic application would be at crosswalks to help blind people.
- museum or exhibit explanations – perhaps the audience wants to know more about a piece of art or a poster. They can then stand in front of the poster to learn more about what they’re looking at.
- This Johnnie Walker exhibit in the Miami International airport uses Audio Spotlight to create a unique interactive experience (August 2011).
- music – now people can share the same space but enjoy different music without affecting one another. Concert performers can target different areas in the audience for a new type of interaction.
- art – will we see new art forms emerging? An art piece could be simultaneously visual and audio.
- amusement parks – Disney. Need I say more?
As a weapon:
- subduing criminals – emit a high frequency sound to inflict pain among suspects.
- noise cancellation – for fighter jets, noisy engines or loud machinery.
- tricking enemies – fake the direction of attack.
As seen, this technology could have infinite applications. However, keeping in mind that this technology is not new at all (2002), why hasn’t it become mainstream yet? My guess is that a lot of development is needed to ensure quality and control, not to mention considering how to mitigate complaints in violations of privacy.