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Researchers create personalised sound projector with $12 webcam (techxplore.com)
94 points by lelf 74 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments

And here, right now, we see the rise of personalized ads for every shop front. "you look hungry, what about eat at our restaurant?" "we have the perfect skin camouflage for your [white, black, brown, yellow] skin tone" "we see you will give birth soon, buy diapers now"

In addition, our method has been designed to require user consent in order to function. This requirement ensures the technology cannot be used intrusively, nor deliver sound to an unwilling audience.

Golly I hope so.

Reading between the lines, is by removing a trivial module you can use it without anyone's consent.

This is a legal problem, not a technological problem.

I am not even sure it is a legal problem. How can the prohibit the creation of similar devices and limit their use?

In any case the approach is new, but we have had targeted audio for some time. Another method used in the past was done by two hyper sonic waves that when combined would reconstitute into a lower frequency. I forget all the details but it it nearly placed the sound in your head.

> I forget all the details but it it nearly placed the sound in your head.

Keywords on that is "voice to skull" - though what I recall, the way it was done was by layering the audio over an ultrasonic carrier wave that could be focused on the targeted listener, and the carrier would be stripped away by the listener's skull, leaving the audio behind which would be heard via bone-conduction.

I'm not saying what you describe isn't a method either - it sounds plausible, and I haven't kept up with all of the developments in the technology.

None, though, was as interesting ("scary"?) as the microwave transmission method direct to the brain/neurons...

The same way they do a bajillion other products? You make it illegal, then you fine anyone who flouts the rule or throw them in jail.

What I am pointing out that the article talked about how they did something special to make it require consent. I don't think they have any legal grounds for preventing the use of, or could they alone pass a law.

I think you would have a hard time making this illegal in the US, as I am sure somebody will tie it to freedom of speech. If a bull horn is legal, then this for sure would also be legal.

It wold also be a legal quagmire depending on how the law would be worded. "Use of directional sound is prohibited."? Simply aiming my mouth at you is doing the same. There are also more than one way to achieve directional sound. I think it was at Fry's -- in their checkout line, they have highly directional speakers that aim down and talk to you, move a few feet either way and you no longer can hear a thing.

Public nuisance laws already on the books would likely do the trick. To use your example, it is already perfectly legal to own a bullhorn and even to carry it around downtown, but if I start setting it off outside a restaurant I'm going for a stay with the police pretty quickly.

Those laws are for sure not without theoretical constitutional issues, but in practice work well enough to keep the lid on.

Fairly sure YouTube is full of videos doing exactly what you described and no police stopped in.

Simply put, targeted protesting...

Even the idiots on YouTube are mostly smart enough to pack it in once they get too much attention. An installed device does not have that luxury-- nor, under your argument, should it need it.

If your claim is that you could stand outside a restaurant blowing a bullhorn at patrons and passers-by for long enough to get caught doing it and that there would be no repercussions, I think you're mad.

This will come if you like it or not - like billboards you have to look at... Just a matter of time. I guess 3-4 years from now on

As somebody with auditory sensitivity I hope not :(

Ad companies are very good at getting around the legal issue of consent. Just visit any online news site from a European IP address to see the nonsense they pull to get around GDPR. They just keep harassing you with pop-ups until you click the big green button labeled "Got it, thanks".

Knowing that, I predict JCDecaux will have devices covering every inch of downtown that will beam high pitched ringing at anyone that passes by. The only way to stop it would be to press a button on their device that says "Stop the ringing". According to European law, this is good enough to count as "consent".

That doesn't sound GDPR compliant.

It isn't. Most users aren't aware it isn't and blame the GDPR for worse user experience. Those that are aware are generally too lazy to report them.

That means this trivial module will have to be refactored into a legal construct.

Students at Southampton have done a similar thing with wavefront generation and are commercialising it: http://www.audioscenic.com

I've had the opportunity to experience theirs and it really was quite a unique experience - the locality of the audio was comparable to over-ear headphones (although the quality wasn't quite as good, but that's to be expected with most speakers). It'll definitely be interesting to see what kind of products they can get to market with this.

Hmm, I could see some more sci-fi, dystopian applications:

- Gaslight someone by making them hear voices

- Threaten someone then arrest them when they attack since to bystanders it appears to be unprovoked

- Similar to the previous one, provoke/trick protestors into "unprovoked" violence

- Trick someone into walking into oncoming traffic

- Harass someone without anyone else noticing

Making people hear voices has been done for advertising [1]. Here's a video of what it sounded like [2].

[1] https://adage.com/article/news/hear-voices-ad/122491

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwAeb3RBZ1Y

I'll buy one the second it hits the market. Beamform the television sound only to {my wife, me} so {I, she} can sleep!

Wireless headphones and earphones provide vastly superior sound quality to this design. This design is only worth it if you're allergic to having anything on your head.

Or you want to do directed marketing. (For all the bustle about consent, that part is trivial to ignore.)

Man have i got some epic tech for you! Headphones, you're going to love them! They even can work without wires... ;-)

They aren't as comfortable in hot and/or humid areas.

I got some in-ear ones for $30 and they're amazing, I'm in love. Great quality, they always just work, and they're super convenient.


I would pay higher for a laptop with directed sound, so that at open offices (or public place) I can watch one off videos (typically for reference) without getting into hassle of wearing headphones.

Tcl TV's can send the sound over WiFi to a phone. I can listen to TV via my phone, hear clearly, and nobody farther than 5 feet can hear a thing. It's a solved problem.

The article refers to 3D printed acoustic lenses, and previous research also uses 3D printed lenses (https://courses.physics.illinois.edu/phys406/sp2017/Student_...)

Does anybody know if any of the files for these are public? I think it would be fun to experiment with this idea at home.

I understood correctly that are two innovations here? The face-tracking and the ability to direct sound precisely.

I would be very interested in the sound direction solely. My use case is to project sound to me, in a bed, without my wife, sleeping next to me, hearing a thing. I like to sleep with music and she doesn't. A directed alarm would be nice too.

Is this technology already available some where?

Can I please have an electric car that is silent to everyone except people/animals that might need to be warned?

The '6cm diameter sphere in front of the target' is kind of confusing, since most people's ears are further than 6cm apart and not 'in front of them'. I suppose this is a way that the whole thing isn't quite ready for 'personalised ads' just yet.

Will that be their maximum precision? If they can target a 6cm sphere, they probably can adjust to a larger volume.

I don't know, it seems a small goal to aim for if they specifically chose 6cm, so it'd seem like it's a (current) limitation of what they're doing. It doesn't seem like it'd be a limit that'd be too hard to increase though.

More about the metamaterials and sound lens tech here: https://phys.org/news/2019-05-academics-spotlight-lego-like-...

so what stops people intercepting these audio messages, using the same idea you could use a parabolic mic to track and hear the individuals audio

Shape of the wavefront. It is very directional elliptical, you would need very high sensitivity microphone to attempt a capture off angle.

Directivity is about -50 dB off axis potentially. You can further enhance it some with active noise cancellation.

What about capturing sound as it scatters on the listener's head?

I guess you need a good model of their head to post process a readable message out of the distorted audio.

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