Currently, creating accurate “virtual sound fields” through headphones is extremely expensive and involves lengthy acoustic measurements. A new approach eliminates the acoustic measurement step and promises to produce the required results in mere minutes.
Research leader Tony Tew explains, “We envisage booths in the high street, like those used for passport photos, where customers can have the shape of their head and ears measured easily. The shape information will be used to quickly compute an individual’s spatial filters.”
Spatial filters encapsulate how your features alter sounds before they reach the eardrum. The booth would record the spatial filter measurements on to a smart card, readable by next-generation sound systems. The result – sounds heard through headphones should be indistinguishable from hearing the same sounds live.
The ability to place virtual sounds anywhere around the head has applications in computer games and for producing earcons (the acoustic equivalent of icons on a visual display). Hearing aids programmed with the wearer’s spatial filters would exploit the directional information created by the ear flaps and so help to target one sound while rejecting others.