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Researchers from the University of Sussex in the UK have 3D printed metasurfaces to make acoustic lenses that focuses sound to an individual.
Led by Dr. Gianluca Memoli, the team has invented an automated camera-speaker system that can deliver a directed acoustic message to a tracked moving target. Creating a spotlight of sound, the directional speaker has potential applications in the entertainment industry, such as creating sonic environments in virtual reality (VR) and custom audio experiences in theatres.
Technology - Media - Conference - SIGGRAPH - Scientists
At the technology and media conference SIGGRAPH 2019, the scientists presented this invention to entertainment giants such as Disney and Microsoft.
An auto-zoom optical camera works by identifying a person, extending its objective to zoom into the person’s face, then following the face as the person moves. The team’s auto-zoom acoustic camera works with a similar mechanism, except replacing a light lens with an acoustic objective.
Objective - Lenses - Lengths - Distance - Lenses
An acoustic objective is formed by two 3D printed acoustic lenses of different focal lengths. By adjusting the distance between lenses in front of the speaker, sound is focused on a selected target. The target’s movements are tracked by an in-house face-tracking software. The software then commands the adjustment of lens separation to match the distance of the target from the speaker.
Directly delivering sound to a person, the researchers’ system requires user consent in order to function. This ensures the technology cannot be used intrusively and ensure sounds would not be directed to an unwilling audience.
Interface - Software - Image - University - Sussex
The interface of the face-tracking software. Image via University of Sussex.
Additive manufacturing and computational modelling have enabled the development of metamaterials. Microengineered from everyday materials such as wood, glass or plastic, 3D printed metamaterials incorporate unique properties such as electric and pressure-induced shape-shifting. For its superior qualities, metamaterials havebeen applied to build optical devices and a sonic crystal cube.
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