Woody Norris has a way of getting inside your head ...
David Sparrow - Popular Science
Woody Norris has a way of getting inside your head. No, we don't mean his overpowering handshake or Barnumesque penchant for self-promotion ("This is the biggest thing in audio in 77 years"). We mean HyperSonic Sound, his latest creation. (A prolific inventor, Norris, 64, also won a Best of What's New for a personal flying machine.)
Unlike traditional speakers, which scatter sound, Norris' device streams it in a precise, laser-like beam for up to 150 yards with almost no degradation in quality or volume. If that seems incredible, trust me, it is.
When I met Norris in September he pointed the 7-inch-square emitter at me from 30 feet away. Suddenly I heard the sound of birds chirping. The noise didn't seem to emanate from his device; I felt like it was generated inside my noggin. Yet a guy just 2 feet away from me couldn't hear it.
How does it work? The piezoelectric transducer emits sound at frequencies above the human ear's 20,000-cycle threshold. Unlike low-frequency waves, the high-frequency signals don't spread out as they travel through air. Yet they do interact with the air to induce a related set of ultrasonic waves. These waves combine with the original waves, interfering to create an audible signal, focused into a beam.
The applications are numerous, if not apparent: Thousands of soda machines in Tokyo will soon bombard passersby with the enticing sound of a Coke being poured, and several U.S. supermarkets will promote products to shoppers as they walk down corresponding aisles. Eventually HyperSonic Sound might enable a nightclub to play disco on one side of the dance floor and salsa on the other. Ambulances equipped with hypersonic sirens could clear the streets without waking the neighbors. Norris' company, American Technology, sells the devices for $600.
Yeah, You, I'm Talkin' to You: Woody Norris demonstrates his directional HyperSonic Sound device on a Manhattan street corner.
Photograph by John B. Carnett
Voices in Your Head?
Courtesy News Watcher
Last updated 06/10/2004