I’ve recently discovered a CBC Radio program called Spark. The CBC is a bone fide national treasure, and Spark is their program on technology in society. They describe it as:
Spark is a weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching. It’s not just technology for gearheads, it’s about the way technology affects our lives, and the world around us.
…sounds interesting, non?
I recently loaded my phone with some Spark podcasts in a effort to catch up on the program. I was especially taken by episode 128 from November 2010 which considers the impact of noise on people. From the calming influence of bird song to the stress induced by using a cell phone, it’s profoundly interesting stuff.
Our personal and collective productivity often hinges on the soundscape of the working environment. Your personal stress and anxiety level can also be impacted. To be blunt, noise matters…and yet it’s often completely overlooked.
Have you ever encountered something that seems a little odd, then find that you are in fact surrounded by examples if it in your daily life. So it is with “Beam Forming.” You may never have heard of it, but it’s all around you, and it’s more than a little interesting.
Wikipedia tells use that, “Beam forming is a signal processing technique used in sensor arrays for directional signal transmission or reception.” It is essentially a way of using an array of omnidirectional sensors to synthesize directionality.
Cast into the audio domain beam forming is a way to use the signals from multiple omnidirectional microphones to create the equivalent of a direction microphone. Further, since the process is based upon signal processing, it can be variable. It can create the equivalent of an electronically steerable microphone, complete with the ability to “zoom” in or out. It’s not unlike a zoom lens for sound.
Michael Gerzon is a mathematician and pioneer in surround sound theory. He invented the Ambisonic approach to accurately recording an acoustic event. His theories and techniques were a topic of profound interest to me while I was in College.
Now that I’m older, and better funded, I find that I’m revisiting surround sound and specifically Ambisonics as an aspect of planning for my forthcoming home theater installation.