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Friday, March 4, 2011

3D Audio Craziness!

Well, in light of the dearth of posts, I must admit things have been pretty crazy for me lately. Certainly crazy in more ways than one, but here is kind of craziness you want to hear about, I promise!

Professor Edgar Chouieri, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Princeton, gave dinner discussion last Friday, Feb. 25, titled "3D Audio" as part of an art and science lecture series organized by the newly formed student group, Music in Mind. Here was the event description:
Lecture and Dinner brought to you by the Music in Mind (MiM) group:

An excerpt:
I’m about to hear a demonstration of Choueiri’s Pure Stereo filter, which promises “truly 3-D reproduction of a recorded soundfield.” Only a handful of people have heard his 3-D demo, but it’s already spawned awestruck hype, as well as preemptive rumblings of audiophile skepticism. -- Atlantic Monthly, March 2011.

So sure, that sounds pretty cool, but the lecture was way more than just cool! We actually got to hear 3D audio (if you're befuddled as to what 3D audio even means, bear with me for a while, or read the above article). Professor Chouieri brought in a small black rectangular device--one of those things that you might mistake for a pencil box--that played out sound in 3D. When I held black box (Chouieri's, not Tolman's) an arm's length away from my head, I heard bird sounds not only to the left and right of me (what regular speakers can do), but I could also hear a bird as if it were right next to my right ear, and another one just a little farther away, or another one a little behind me. I could hear actual depth in audio, and it was wonderfully uncanny. It was quite entertaining to see the looks of awe on everyone's faces (all 50 of us!) as the device was passed around the room.

You're wondering, how does this work? Well, the answer is surprisingly obvious--in the same way that 3D images work. (We witness here again how creativity and innovation arise from applying old concepts in new ways.) We see 3D images by eliminating cross-talk between the eyes. In the same way, we hear 3D sound by eliminating cross-talk between the ears. I'm being horribly vague, so please check out this video! It does a much better job at explaining this extremely fascinating stuff:


Professor Chouieri's going to California in a few weeks to talk with the movie makers. Imagine having 3D audio in the movie theatres, and then 3D audio TV, 3D audio CDs...! Professor Chouieri offered to show us his 3D Audio and Applied Acoustics Lab; we're working on organizing groups to visit for Music in Mind and perhaps even working with him on the creation of a 3D audio musical project. Crazy awesome!

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