Pharyngula

You really must have headphones on when you listen to this wonderful exercise in stereophony.

There’s more information on how it was made at toomanytribbles. You’ve gotta love your brain and the way it can translate phase and timing differences in sound into a spatial map, without you really having to think about it.

Comments

  1. #1 Greg
    July 2, 2007

    Some of that stuff sent shivers up my spine. I’m glad this isn’t Virtual Dentist!

  2. #2 Alex Whiteside
    July 2, 2007

    Reminds me of the first time I listened to The Invisible Man by Queen. “Get out of my skull, Freddie Mercury!”

  3. #3 Moogle
    July 2, 2007

    http://www.amazon.com/Mist-3-D-Sound/dp/0671874756/

    That’s a pretty good Stephen King short story done in the same fashion. Some of the effects sent shivers up my spine, even after the 3rd or 4th time listening to it.

  4. #4 VWXYNot?
    July 2, 2007

    Whoa! Sitting here in an otherwise empty office and listening to that with my eyes closed was just incredible. I second the comment about the dentist…

  5. #5 Tom Nielsen
    July 2, 2007

    Waaay cool, but have to admit that I really hated his accent, and the way he all the time had to state out loud which side he was working on… right..onto the back…left etc.

  6. #6 K. Signal Eingang
    July 2, 2007

    More holophonic links:

    http://holomatches.ytmnd.com/ <- demo using a box of matches

    http://www.holophonic.ch/newsite/index.php <- I think these guys own the “Cetera” algorithm that produced both the matches demo and the Virtual Barber Shop. The intro sample on their page is pretty nifty.

    Somebody needs to get the Firesign Theater one of these things.

  7. #7 Tim Tesar
    July 2, 2007

    Nothing new here. Binaural recording has been around a long time.

  8. #8 ryan
    July 2, 2007

    yeesh! the scissors! the scissors! nooooooooo! my ears!

    LOL. this was cool.

  9. #9 Malky
    July 2, 2007

    Lost on me but then I wear hearing aids and have grosly mismatched hearing.

  10. #10 Fluffy
    July 2, 2007

    I experienced something like this at Disney World yeeears ago. It might even have been exactly this, because i remember a (virtual) barber and the very distinct sound of scissors cutting hair. I wish i could remember which park it was…probably MGM, as I believe it was in an attraction about movie magic. You went into a sound booth, put on headphones, and listened to the recording. There was also an exhibit on Foley artists in the same attraction. Damn, now I am going to have to go use my google-fu for the rest of the day trying to track this down!

  11. #11 Kseniya, OM
    July 2, 2007

    I think it’s time for me to start a band called The Psychoacoustics.

  12. #12 Graham Douglas
    July 2, 2007

    Nothing new here. Binaural recording has been around a long time.

    Interesting Wikipedia article. I’m sure I remember Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream releasing a binaural recording *mumpty-mumph* years ago, although it’s not mentioned. I remember it because I was quite into Phaedra at the time (having heard John Peel play it), and it was the first time I’d heard of the technique.

  13. #13 folderol
    July 2, 2007

    Darn! I saw “barber shop” and read “barber shop quartet.” I was all ready for close four-part harmony. . . .

  14. #14 Mindbleach
    July 2, 2007

    I was just looking for binaural recording effects on YouTube yesterday, and here you have a great (if heavy-handed) example. I love the internet. It’d be great to see this sort of effect integrated into games. Second Life already has doppler effects, and the millisecond pauses and minute volume tweaking can’t be much more taxing on the CPU. Of course, I’m a sucker for immersion – I GIMP autostereograms from digital art, I pore over every new announcement of 3D consumer monitor technology, I own a Virtual Boy, for fnord’s sake.

  15. #15 Triumphal_Thusnelda
    July 2, 2007

    YIPE! Beware the whisper! I flinched away from my left…

  16. #16 Steve Sutton
    July 2, 2007

    When it first started, I thought something had hit the outside of my window, which is about five feet to my right. I had to listen to that part again to make sure it was actually in the recording. It was freaky.

  17. #17 JJR
    July 2, 2007

    I was about half-way through it when I realized my headphones were on backwards…”as I move to your right side” and I was like “hey! that’s my left—oh, duh…”

    The whisper part nearly made me jump out of my seat, too.

    The whole thing was WAY cool.

  18. #18 Chet
    July 2, 2007

    Great technology, but the best they could do was a… barber shop?

    It’s boring enough having one’s hair cut, but at least at the end of it you have a new haircut. This is all the stupefying boredom of the droning hair stylist’s inane banter with none of the payoff.

  19. #19 Maronan
    July 3, 2007

    Whoops, that should be “make do,” right?

  20. #20 TheBlackCat
    July 3, 2007

    The primary method by which humans localize low frequency sound (under a few kilohertz) is by the arrival time. The intensity difference only becomes dominant in higher frequency sounds. 100 microseconds is actually a long time, it only takes a discrepancy of 10 microsecond or so to make a sound seem to shift to one side. If a sound is straight ahead we can tell if it moves just 1 degree of to either side (this increases to 10 degrees for sound at 90 degrees).

    One interesting thing is what happens when you ignore the head. If you just add a time and/or level difference between the two ears what you end up with is a sound that is perceived as being inside the head. It may be shifted to one side or the other, but you cannot make the sound appear to be outside the head using only time and level differences. That is one of the ways things like the pinna, shape of the head, hair, and other similar cues come into play.

    The issue of front/back confusion that Ktesibios brought up leads to another interesting problem. As he said, the front and the back cannot be differentiated based on just time and level differences. The time delay and level difference from having something come from 45 degrees to the side and front is exactly the same as something coming from 45 degrees to the side and back. However, something coming from straight out to the side but 45 degrees up will also be indistinguishable. Even more, something 45 degrees and 10 feet away will be the same as something 45 degrees and 30 feet away (assuming you do not know the “real” intensity of the sound). This is called the “cone of confusion”, for any given level or time difference there is a cone of locations that are impossible to distinguish. This makes determining the height of a sound particularly challenging. Once again the shape of the head, the ears, the hair, and such are primarily responsible for resolving such ambiguities.

  21. #21 Brian
    July 3, 2007

    Wow. My headphones are labelled L and R, and I double-checked that I had them on correctly, but all the effects were on the wrong side.

    Apparently my headphones are mislabelled. I should sue the manufacturer!

  22. #22 zayzayem
    July 3, 2007

    I remember in a Japanese themepark they had a set up like this. you go into a windowless lightless room and put on headphones. Then a holophonic sketch stakes place – its usually something freaky. It was all in japanese, but I got that it was a guy going into a hospital only to find more than he bargained for, it was about 10 times more chilling than virtual dentist would be. The girl I was with almost peed her pants.

  23. #23 TheBlackCat
    July 3, 2007

    @ Ktesibios

    There is a more serious problem than just crosstalk. The way this recording is to reproduce the effects the head would have on the signal. If you are wearing headphones, this is important because the sound goes directly into the ears and avoids the head. When you are using speakers, however, the sound interacts with your head in real life. So they applied filters to make the sound seem to come from one direction, but since the speakers in a completely different location you get a second set of filters applied. Further, you are get two sets of time delays and two sets of intensity differences layered on top of each other, one set built into the sound and the other from the locations and orientations of the speakers. This leads to a muddling of all the location cues. If your speakers are set up well it should compensate somewhat for the time and intensity issues, but it can’t fix the frequency problems.

  24. #24 Ginger Yellow
    July 3, 2007

    “It’d be great to see this sort of effect integrated into games.”

    Games have used techniques like this for years. AM3D make the best engine, but Creative’s more basic EAX is standard on most soundcards these days.

  25. #25 waltsentme
    July 3, 2007

    Re: #12 “I experienced something like this at Disney World yeeears ago. It might even have been exactly this, because i remember a (virtual) barber and the very distinct sound of scissors cutting hair. I wish i could remember which park it was…probably MGM, as I believe it was in an attraction about movie magic. You went into a sound booth, put on headphones, and listened to the recording. There was also an exhibit on Foley artists in the same attraction.”

    That was “The Monster Sound Show” at MGM, which closed around 1999 (more info at http://www.waltdatedworld.bravepages.com/id69.htm )

    The building currently has another binaural attraction “Sounds Dangerous” with Drew Carey. ( info at http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/guides/mgm/st-sound.htm )
    The MouseTunes podcast episode at http://www.mousetunes.com/podcasts/mousetunes_071606.mp3 has a binaural recording of it.

    In the Magic Kingdom in Florida, there was a show called “ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter” that has been changed to “Stitches Great Escape”. Both of these shows used binaural sound. You can hear binaural versions of both shows in the wdw-memories podcast episode at
    http://wdw-memories.podomatic.com/enclosure/2006-10-29T05_27_02-08_00.mp3

    Over at Disneyland, the most recent version of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” had a binaural experience, complete with a haircut simulation like the one in this post. Mr. Lincoln is currently hidden behind a screen as his theatre in Anaheim is being used for a film about the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. VisionsFantastic has a binaural recording of it at http://www.visionsfantastic.com/main.php?page=lincoln but you have to create a free account to listen to it.

    There is a weekly podcast that does binaural walkthrus of Disney attractions at both North American resorts at
    http://windowtothemagic.com/

  26. #26 Mithandir
    July 5, 2007

    Yeah, video games do use it. I loved how it was used in Thief III, a first person sneaker game where you often had to rely on sound to guess where the guards were so you could avoid them.

  27. #27 Raman
    October 25, 2007

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