"Believe you can, believe you can't; either way, you're right." - Henry Ford
Every so often throughout history there are certain technologies, devices and inventions that have changed the way in which we go about our lives; whether through innovation, necessity or both. Fine examples are the invention of the first mass produced automobiles, or the Wright Bros conquering gravity for the first time.
Usually the ironic part of these stories is that these people were told "It cannot be done", or "You're nuts for trying". But time and time again these ideas have proven to not only be the farthest thing from crazy, but something quite profound and life changing indeed.
Imagine the world we would live in now if these people did not follow their dreams through adversity and instead believed what they were told. We certainly would not have planes/cars/phones etc, but the nay sayers would have collectively cut their noses to spite their faces.
So it appears to be a tradeoff between respect from your fellow man which is usually derived from not posing a threat to his way of life, or going out on a limb because you know that's where the fruit is; like Ford, Edison and the Wright Brothers.
This brings me to a man who has done just such a thing with sound. And that individual is Woody Norris, our modern day innovator whom is responsible for bringing to the world a new technology in sound and the way it's heard by us.
The Man Behind The Magic
"Pure science is magic. It is magic. The stuff we do today - magic." - Woody Norris
For his forty-forth patent and fifteenth invention, Woody Norris has brought to the world "HyperSonic Sound". But first let's hear a little about the man behind the forty-four patents and fifteen inventions.
Woody Norris was born in Barrelville, Maryland, with both parents lacking any university education.
Woody's electronic knowledge is basically self taught. He received six months of air force training in electronics and begged local people for their old radios, of which he accumulated many and fixed nearly every one of them.
"You know how some people can play the piano, they just pick out notes? I've always had that ability with electronics and I know rudimentary things about circuits just intuitively." - Woody Norris
After making an application to a local Hi-Fi store that was not answered quickly enough, Woody decided to join the air force and after doing very well on an aptitude test was stationed in a secret base in the United States to begin his career.
"I hated it. I hated the Air Force. I wasn't making any money." - Woody Norris
After four years of working his way up to Airman Second Class ("about as low as you can get"), he got a job at the University of Washington fixing electronic equipment.
"I was making four hundred bucks a month, which was terrible at the time. But because I worked for the university, I could take classes for free. So I just took one during the day and then as many evening classes as I wanted for free. So I was having a heyday. I had a little old English Riley car that you cranked to start." - Woody Norris
Woody was soon after approached by a Salt Lake City company who wanted him to invent a sonar version of radar that could listen inside the human body. This was one of the contracts that aided the master inventor in getting his career off and running, after which time he had the facilities that he needed to continue his inventing and from which to launch himself and his career.
Okay, so now we have some background on the man behind all of those inventions and how he made his rise to fame and fortune. Let's now zoom right into this whole "hypersonic" notion and explain what exactly it is and how it works, before covering what some of its applications may in fact be.
In order to begin explaining this technology, let's first imagine a light bulb which is used to direct light in a certain area. Basically, we can put the light where it's needed; we don't have to light our whole house to look for something in the kitchen.
Now, without this ability to concentrate and direct light where we want and need it, we could not have things like TV, movies, computers, CD's, lasers etc.
Moving over to sound to complete the analogy, after 80 years of loudspeakers we still throw the sound all over the environment the speaker is located in rather than directing it to the listener's ears.
"I thought it was about time to put sound where you want to." - Woody Norris
So instead of filling a room with sound, Woody had the notion that we should be able to create the sound next to 'your ears'.
Traditionally when discussing a loudspeaker the sound is produced on the front face of the unit by the speaker drivers and then projected out into the room, filling it with sound. This is fine in theory and practice, but we have since determined that air is not linear in nature and rather it is affected by several factors.
"All of audio as we know it is an attempt to be more and more linear." - Woody Norris
If a signal is pushed beyond 80db the air in the environment begins to corrupt the signal you're propagating, because the speed at which sound travels is not constant; (rather, it's fairly slow). Changes begin to occur with temperature and barometric alterations (as to how fast it's moving through the air).
Imagine a sine wave in the air. Now, if the amplitude (volume) of the signal increases too much, there is a change on the pressure in the environment where it's being created, which means during the making of that sine wave the speed at which it propagates (itself) is changing as a response to the air changes.
So we now know that a propagated signal can be corrupted by natural phenomena occurring in the environment around us all the time; that being constant changes in the pressure and density of the air around us.
So logically the next step is to find a method to the madness. Can this corruption be tracked and compensated for? The answer is yes; it turns out that this corrupting phenomena in the air can be predicted and therefore manipulated in a way that is beneficial to the cause.
So basically an aspect of this technology is that it sets out to utilize the most fundamental factors we take for granted, in a better way than we do now; this by gaining a better understanding of these forces and thinking simply in a non-linear fashion in order to implement this understanding.
Okay, so we know that HyperSonic Sound takes into account the most fundamental forces that exist in the environment we live in. Let's now discuss how this sound is actually produced.
When a HyperSonic speaker panel is aimed at someone, the air between that person and the panel is 'mapped' and the space is divided up into literally millions of separate points between the person and the panel. Once the air has been specially mapped, the audio to be produced can then be sent down this column of air right to the person's ear or into their head as the case may be.
The sound is produced along this column of air rather than everywhere in the environment in a non-efficient manner (which requires more and more power as the distance grows, traditionally). For this reason, the inverse square law does not apply. What this law states is that sound drops off about 2/3 for every doubling of distance. Ie. 6dB when you go from one meter to two meters.
So what does that actually mean besides obvious gains in efficiency and power usage? - If I went to see a concert using HyperSonic Sound devices, the show would sound the same in the front row center as the back row corner, which is pretty cool.
Rather than a traditional speaker producing the sound at point A and then the user receiving a diluted corrupted version of it by the time it reaches point B, HyperSonic Sound allows the signal to be sent directly to your ears (and can be bounced off walls, too) without the need for it to travel around the room (unnecessarily) and be corrupted on its path to you.
This audio can then be narrowed or spread and can be set so that only the left ear gets the left channel information and vice versa, eliminating spill-over caused by one ear hearing the information meant for the other.
So for arguments sake, if you're a little bit confused still, imagine a really nice pair of stereo headphones, but you're not wearing anything at all. The sound is being sent down a private "air-way" express to your head.
Implementation Of Technology
The many different applications for such a technology are extremely broad indeed.
Initially I think we will begin to see a lot of big advertising companies showing interest in this technology as a new way to reach the customers.
I know for a fact that in New York City in Time Square there has been a billboard featured which uses this technology to 'seek out' pedestrians as they walk by and quite literally fill their heads with the company's advertising spiel.
I'm sure there will also be a large demand in shopping centers and supermarkets for the ability to individually target shoppers as they go about their business without the need to target whole groups of shoppers, as is traditionally the case with loudspeakers.
The car industry is also very excited about being able to market a product that can provide separate and individual sound requirements to different 'zones' of the vehicle. This would be accomplished without spill-over being an issue as it obviously is right now, unless headphones are being used.
Currently there's work being done on an application of this technology to stop snoring and also to eliminate road noise as well.
Militarily the uses are also quite interesting. Currently this technology is being deployed into Iraq and is being used to create artificial troop positions and movements in order to act as a decoy. Or perhaps to send a biblical verse to the enemy soldier before he attacks, sending his psyche into dis-array. This is 100% serious and is being used today by armed forces deployed around the world.
There are also other uses such as transmitting a 155db (pain starts at 120db) signal to your enemy's ears and bursting his ear drums from miles away, although cruel and unusual if you ask me.
This technology can also identify enemy soldiers from 100 metres away by the slightest shift in temperature and can also send messages to soldiers who are a long distance away.
Right now the U.S. military are buying these devices mounted onto turrets in spades at a cool $70,000 a piece with built-in camera.
The uses are many and varied and honestly I think we are only starting to dig into what is actually possible with HyperSonic Sound.
Although I have not personally heard this technology in action for myself, I believe it does what everyone says it does and quite possibly even more.
So, can this be something we can all realistically have in homes some time soon? - With some excitement I can say 'Yes', it is and I believe there is HyperSonic based equipment for sale right now on the internet.
With any luck I will be able to take a look at a HyperSonic speaker in due time and report to everyone my hands on experience with it, but until then I just wanted to wet everyone's appetite and give a small glimpse at the future we're all living in right now today.
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