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About this Article
Written by: Philip Hirz
Written on: May 5th, 2003
Tags: electrical engineering, entertainment, lifestyle
Thumbnail by: Illumin
About the Author
Philip Hirz recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Electrical Engineering. His emphasis was in modern communication systems. He is now working at Northrop Grumman Space Technology and pursuing his Master’s degree in communication systems at USC. His hobbies include playing the guitar, listening to music, and reading.
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Volume V Issue IV > Directional Audio
A collection of recently developed audio technologies allows for the creation of thin, directional sound beams. With this type of equipment, focused streams of sound can be pointed exactly where the user wants them. Directional sound technology will likely see widespread adoption in the near future as engineers continue developing sound beam technology for numerous applications including acoustic weaponry, richer sound effects for the entertainment industry, as well as more commercial uses.

Introduction

Imagine you could point sound the same way you can point light with, say, a flashlight. Suppose speakers existed that could send focused beams of sound wherever they were pointed. You could speak into a megaphone and send the sound to a single person. Or you could have five types of music playing on the same dance floor. You wouldn't have to worry about turning your music down at night to keep the neighbors happy, so long as you didn't point it in their direction.
Thanks to recent advancements in audio engineering, this kind of product may soon be a reality. Researchers have discovered a way to project acoustic waves as a thin beam of sound: step into the beam, and the projected sound fills your ears; step out again, and you hear nothing. This new technology has sparked the interest of everyone from the U.S. Military to U2's Bono [1]. In the next few pages, we will see how directional sound technology works and explore how it might be used in the near future.