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Projecting Sound 'Inside Your Head'

CmdrTaco posted more than 11 years ago | from the voices-will-have-to-make-some-room dept.

Science 296

Gregus writes "Projecting 'hypersonic sound' has appeared here before, but NY Times Magazine (FRRYYY) has an in-depth article with its lauded inventor and its applications. John Anderton, you could use a Guinness right now." Plus this story includes screwing with Mall Walkers!

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296 comments

Relief (5, Funny)

Ken@WearableTech (107340) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578523)

It's good to know that I'm not crazy and someone has been telling me to start those fires...

ken (-1)

trolltime (563695) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578536)

baghdad, baghdad...
baghdad is on fire.
we don't need no water,
let the motherfucker burn.
burn, motherfucker , burn.

Yes, Bagdad must burn (-1, Offtopic)

Jacques Chirac (661089) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578691)

I agree with you and with the US/UK/Australian coalition. Saddam must be stopped. Nuke that mother fucker!

Re:Relief (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578538)

Yes...Sorry about that but I needed a test subject... ;)

I think that the goverment should introduce legislation to control this type of sound. It could be used to control/influence people!

Re:Relief (1)

Ken@WearableTech (107340) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578559)

You could really mess with some people.

Re:Relief (1)

mwolff (594593) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578583)

Imagine this being used as a weapon in war. Instead of the current psychological torture, where the music is just played really loudly, it would be played really loudly in your head!

Re:Relief (5, Funny)

TobiasSodergren (470677) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578689)

Oh, finally an explanation for why J Lo is selling records. The military must be buying it.

Grado SR 80 (-1, Troll)

HanzoSan (251665) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578743)



These headphones can do that, this is not new at all.

Try a good enough pair of headphones and you'll swear the sound is in your head.

Re:Grado SR 80 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578763)

Wow, that's your definition of 'good' headphones? Any pair of crap 1$ headphones will do that. REAL headphones will project a soundstage, and unless you have a hollow head with people in it, a soundstage should be *outside* your head.
Try some real headphones, like Sennheiser or Staxx.
Grado, I mean please. The Bang and Olufsen of headphones...

Re:Grado SR 80 (2, Interesting)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578768)

actually, a really old primitive set of monophonic headphones will make the sound appear to be in the exact center of your head

Re:Grado SR 80 (1)

Bunji X (444592) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578792)

Yes, innovation is baaaaaad.....

Please explain how you would go about projecting sound at a person 100 yards away with your cheap headphones.

blea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578526)

WOOp FP, I love this crazy thing

YOU FAIL IT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578620)

How does it feel to be A FAILURE to a FP with a +5 score? How does it feel, FAILURE?

I saw this on CNN a while back (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578529)

It seems like many people in the industry thought this guy was a crack-pot, and didn't believe some of his theories. However, he seems to have been able to prove himself and turn many skeptics into believers. This really does have some neat, and disturbing applications.

Re:I saw this on CNN a while back (3, Insightful)

Blaine Hilton (626259) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578762)

It seems like all great inventers have started as being considered a "crack pot" Now I wonder how this will be used. It seems like something that is too powerful to exist. Kinda like the cartoons where they use a device to control every one in the world. If this is connected to a set of satalites and beamed down very loud music or just a shrill note, somebody could become very powerful, very fast.

Re:I saw this on CNN a while back (4, Funny)

Twirlip of the Mists (615030) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578821)

It seems like all great inventers have started as being considered a "crack pot"

The thing is, crackpots are also considered crackpots. The trick is in telling the difference.

Myself, I play the odds. The crackpots outnumber the geniuses by such an astounding margin, I just assume that anybody who sounds like a crackpot, is.

If this is connected to a set of satalites and beamed down very loud music or just a shrill note, somebody could become very powerful, very fast.

Now, see what I'm talking about? This is exactly the kind of thing that makes you sound like a crackpot.

Its nothing great, headphones do this already, (1)

HanzoSan (251665) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578771)


The only thing great about this is the fact that this has a better range, but headphones and speakers already have the ability to place sounds in certain places.

My headphones the Grado SR80s can place the sound anywhere all the way around my head, including the inside my head sound.

State of the art speakers can already place sound in different areas, look I dont care if they put ads on these new speakers, I'll have my headphones on and they will be blocked out.

oh well (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578535)

enjoying the war america?

the body bags are starting to roll in already!

ya baby!

This brings a big smile to bin ladens face as he plans the next "shock and awe" on your america cities i'm sure!

Re:oh well (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578591)

Consider something... In this war, *every* *single* *death* is reported as a news story. We see many of those killed's families. Death is an unfortunate consequence of war, but the losses in our modern wars are extremely tiny compared to wars past.

Re:oh well (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578629)

People where saying the same thing at the turn of the last century too!

After the Boer War it looked like waging war was a cheap and fun war for britain to get her way...

CONSIDER THIS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578634)

Every dUne c00n that d1es is g00d for amerikistan!

Re:oh well (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578638)

I like the fact that most deaths were caused by American stupidity rather than Iraqi attacks.

Really, the finest army in the world. And the best trained pilots. ;-)

No wonder Germany had all the aces in WW1/WW2...

Dumbshit (-1, Offtopic)

Jacques Chirac (661089) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578726)

Yes, one chopper went down due to mechanical failure probably caused by a nasty bastard sand storm. Second, two british choppers collided. Third, some Muslim raghead sandnigger dunecoon threw a few grenades at the good guys. That fucker's gonna burn.

Excuse my grammar as French is my native tongue. Now to go get a super size of freedom fries from McD's!

Re:Dumbshit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578747)

You forgot about the patriot missile which took down a British jet (not confirmed yet).

Hahahahahahahahaha ;-)

Oh yeah. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578818)

Well, shit happens. War is dangerous. Friendly fire happens. We're still kicking some serious ass in Iraq though! It will be free by the end of the week!

Re:Dumbshit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578835)

That same missile battery took out half a dozen Iraqi scuds. Given the choice, I'd rather kill a couple of Brit airmen than ten thousand soldiers and civilians alike on the ground.

Re:oh well (-1, Flamebait)

Jacques Chirac (661089) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578709)

War causes death. Weird. But it is necessary to get that bastard Saddam out of Iraq and into a morgue. Americans, Britons, and Australians are giving their lives for what is right. Too bad my pussy country won't do anything about it.

while [ $YOU == "fucker" ] ; do
mv /bin/laden /dev/null
done

Re:oh well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578766)

while [ $YOU == "fucker" ] ; do

mv /bin/laden /dev/null

done



I officially declare this the unfunniest attempt to make a UNIX joke I've ever read.
Congrats, Jacques.

Re:oh well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578845)

Uh. D00d, you just overwrote /dev/null. Now your system won't boot.

Asshat.

Oh joy! (5, Funny)

GMontag (42283) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578541)

Yea, great, mucic for the voices i my head to sing along with. Quite badly I might add.

wow (4, Funny)

Miguel de Icaza (660439) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578543)

its not a dupe, its an echo ;)

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578627)

ah yes, inside the empty heads of ./ readers everywhere...

Tasteless (4, Funny)

Linux-based-robots (660980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578544)

Plus this story includes screwing with Mall Walkers!

Ok this is a new low for the NY Times, using pr0n to attract readers. I mean, how horny do you think we are?

Re:Tasteless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578600)

...especially considering many mall walkers are senior citizens.

ick

Re:Tasteless (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578785)

"how horny do you think we are?"

We're really, really horny!

if only... (-1, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578546)

hopefully, this technology can be used to project my penis inside natalie portman's pussy.

What your Country dont want you to see!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578550)

http://www.stern.de/politik/ausland/index.html?id= 505637&nv=ct_rl&backref=%2Fpolitik%2Fausland%2Find ex.html%3Fid%3D505626%26eid%3D505270%26nv%3Dhp_st& eid=505270

German illiterates, stop posting. Thx. (-1)

This_Is_ASDF (587337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578636)

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This is scary.. (5, Interesting)

phelddagrif (643061) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578568)

With this technology, they can directly beam marketing into your head, and it's not like you can ignore it like you can print/t.v/radio ad's by switching the channels, or averting your eyes. Now they have the ability to force you to listen to it, whether you want to or not.

Re:This is scary.. (5, Funny)

Linux-based-robots (660980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578578)

You fool! Don't spill the beans! I have enough problems with popup ads already!

Re:This is scary.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578729)

As far as I know, somebody who has been deafened by 140 dB sounds can't hear this marketing. Time to walk to your nearest airport.

Re:This is scary.. (2, Interesting)

MattCohn.com (555899) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578786)

Not only that, but if you read deeper, the Navy is using this as a weapon.

In reality, HIDA is both warning and weapon. If used from a battleship, it can ward off stray crafts at 500 yards with a pinpointed verbal warning. Should the offending vessel continue to within 200 yards, the stern warnings are replaced by 120-decibel sounds that are as physically disabling as shrapnel. Certain noises, projected at the right pitch, can incapacitate even a stone-deaf terrorist; the bones in your head are brutalized by a tone's full effect whether you're clutching the sides of your skull in agony or not.

Re:This is scary.. (1)

trite (614780) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578826)

All you have to do is take a step in either direction to avoid the sound.

Subliminal messaging taken to new heights? (5, Insightful)

razormage (145522) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578573)

While research has proven that subliminal messages are, from a marketing standpoint, mostly ineffective, one has to wonder about the advertising possibilities of this type of technology.
Sure, there are the obvious "private advertising" applications mentioned in the article, but this kind of thing can be very interesting - and very frightening.
Picture - you're driving along a road during rush hour. Suddenly, your skull registers the squeal of tires and a massive crash. Or, walking down a sidewalk, a quiet voice inside your head whispers that you're all going to die.
Like any new technology, this one sounds fun, but is going to require some degree of regulations and control to avoid abuse.

Re:Subliminal messaging taken to new heights? (3, Insightful)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578642)

you're driving along a road during rush hour. Suddenly, your skull registers the squeal of tires and a massive crash.

Utterly soundproof cars become all the rage; convertibles become well and truly dead.

Hmmm, I wonder if this widget could be combined with anti-noise generators? On the face of it, it seems like a uniform anti-noise sphere would work much better than a point source speaker.

Scary applications (5, Insightful)

sib888 (94158) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578581)

This has the potential to be the worst invention ever. How would you feel about being forced to listen to advertisements while riding the subway? You can't turn it off. 20 minutes of commercials, or event (shudder) popular music.

Re:Scary applications (4, Funny)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578624)

Well, if everyone there is being subjected to that kind of nonsense, including cops, how long would it take for them to find the transmitters and tear them apart?

Re:Scary applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578659)

Well, if everyone there is being subjected to that kind of nonsense, including cops, how long would it take for them to find the transmitters and tear them apart?

It depends on how slowly you phase it in. The real question you need to ask is 'how long will it take people to get used to it and tune it out'? How much invasiveness are you already putting up with? Why?

--
Post AC. Slashdot isn't worth reading except at -1 anyway.

Re:Scary applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578688)

You think that's scary? Wait til they come out with the cranium-embedded transmitter using this technology. All of the sudden all your thoughts being converted into "audio" and broadcast to The Man.

Did I just say that out loud?

They can do that already with loudspeakers (3, Insightful)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578823)

This technology doesn't suddenly make it possible for them to force you to listen to things on a subway. They could do that already with loudspeakers. The fact that they don't, and that so many mass transit systems ban radio et al unless you use headphones, suggests that this invention won't change this.

Huh? (1)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578587)

One truly harrowing noise is that of a baby crying, played backward, and combined with another tone

Does anyone happen to have heard this one? What's so freaky about it?

Re:Huh? (4, Funny)

ComputarMastar (570258) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578655)

One truly harrowing noise is that of a baby crying, played backward, and combined with another tone
Does anyone happen to have heard this one? What's so freaky about it?
They don't mention that the other "tone" is a Britney Spears song.

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

Dunkalis (566394) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578769)

RTFA...The sound is meant to be used as a weapon, and the writer got to see how it worked. The writer was nauseated and in pain at one percent of what it would be on the battlefield.

This is some scary stuff. I can't begin to imagine how horrible this could make life.

Projected advertising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578595)


Imagine, [Norris] says, walking by a soda machine (say, one of the five million in Japan that will soon employ HSS), triggering a proximity detector, then hearing what you alone hear -- the plink of ice cubes and the invocation, ''Wouldn't a Coke taste great right about now?''


Hello, "Minority Report" [internetnews.com] .

Re:Projected advertising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578615)

Forgot to paste in the even more appropriate,


Or hearing different and extremely targeted messages in every single aisle of a grocery store -- for instance, near the fresh produce, ''Hey, it's the heart of kiwi season!''

Isn't that... (1)

Anonvmous Coward (589068) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578598)

... what Field of Dreams was about?

Watch out guys.. (4, Funny)

wikkiewikkie (596205) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578599)

"transmitting" sound to other people? Sounds like a copyright circumvention device to me.

Dupe? (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578605)

Is this a dupe, or is this a different technology? The previous story, if I recall, had multiple speakers to focus on a single point. This one seems to have only one. Anyone else remember?

Just wait... (5, Funny)

}InFuZeD{ (52430) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578609)

Till some artist thinks its funny and puts a recording of fingernails on a chalkboard on their CD... and projects that sound inside your head.

what about the bass? :D (2, Funny)

obli (650741) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578611)

will it make floor-shaking bass sounds when I listen to music in my head too?

Nasty side effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578640)

It turns out, if they direct high levels of bass into your head, it will explode. The military however is very please by this discovery.

For those of us who don't like giving our details (0, Troll)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578612)

...can someone find a mirror? I've tried, but...

Re:For those of us who don't like giving our detai (1)

nfg05 (638727) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578639)

didnt make me log in... maybe i'm just lucky

Re:For those of us who don't like giving our detai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578661)

Just use these:

username: annoying
password: annoying

works on a lot of website. :-D

The Rifleman's Creed (-1)

This_Is_ASDF (587337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578618)

THIS IS MY RIFLE. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle
is my best friend. It is my life, I must master it as I must master my
life.

My rifle, without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must
fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than the enemy who is trying
to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

My rifle and myself know that what counts in war is not the rounds we
fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is
the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn
it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its
accessories, its sight and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the
ravage of weather and damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even
as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of
my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

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tinfoil hats (5, Funny)

drayzel (626716) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578628)

For those that looked at me funny while I was wearing my tin foil hats: Apolgies will be accepted in verbal and written form from 6AM to 11:30PM.

Your apologies will be accompanied the cursory "I told you so"

~Z

Article (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578630)

March 23, 2003
The Sound of Things to Come
By MARSHALL SELLA

No one ever notices what's going on at a Radio Shack. Outside a lonely branch of the electronics store, on a government-issue San Diego day in a strip mall where no one is noticing much of anything, a bluff man with thinning, ginger hair and preternaturally white teeth is standing on the pavement, slowly waving a square metal plate toward people strolling in the distance. ''Watch that lady over there,'' he says, unable to conceal his boyish pride for the gadget in his giant hand. ''This is really cool.''

Woody Norris aims the silvery plate at his quarry. A burly brunette 200 feet away stops dead in her tracks and peers around, befuddled. She has walked straight into the noise of a Brazilian rain forest -- then out again. Even in her shopping reverie, here among the haircutters and storefront tax-preparers and dubious Middle Eastern bistros, her senses inform her that she has just stepped through a discrete column of sound, a sharply demarcated beam of unexpected sound. ''Look at that,'' Norris mutters, chuckling as the lady turns around. ''She doesn't know what hit her.''

Norris is demonstrating something called HyperSonic Sound (HSS). The aluminum plate is connected to a CD player and an odd amplifier -- actually, a very odd and very new amplifier -- that directs sound much as a laser beam directs light. Over the past few years, mainly in secret, he has shown the device to more than 300 major companies, and it has slackened a lot of jaws. In December, the editors of Popular Science magazine bestowed upon HSS its grand prize for new inventions of 2002, choosing it over the ferociously hyped Segway scooter. It is no exaggeration to say that HSS represents the first revolution in acoustics since the loudspeaker was invented 78 years ago -- and perhaps only the second since pilgrims used ''whispering tubes'' to convey their dour messages.

As Norris continues to baffle shoppers by sniping at them with the noises he has on this CD (ice cubes clanking into a glass, a Handel concerto, the plash of a waterfall), some are spooked, and some are drawn in. Two teenage girls drift over from 100 feet away and ask, in bizarre Diane Arbus-type unison, ''What is that?''

Norris responds with his affable mantra -- ''In'nat cool?'' -- before going into a bit of simplified detail: how the sound waves are actually made audible not at the surface of the metal plate but at the listener's ears. He doesn't bother to torment the girls with the scientific gymnastics of how data are being converted to ultrasound then back again to human-accessible frequencies along a confined column of air. ''See, the way your brain perceives it, the sound is being created right here,'' Norris explains to the Arbus girls, lifting a palm to the side of his head. ''That's why it's so clear. Feels like it's inside your skull, doesn't it?''

In the years Norris has demonstrated HSS, he says, that's been the universal reaction: the sound is inside my head. So that's the way he has started to describe it.

Just to check the distances, I pace out a hundred yards and see if the thing is really working. (I've tried this other times -- in a posh hotel in Manhattan, in another parking lot in San Diego -- but HSS is so often suspected of being a parlor trick that it always seems to bear checking.) Norris pelts me with the Handel and, to illustrate the directionality of the beam, subtly turns the plate side to side. And the sound is inside my head, roving between my ears in accord with each of Norris's turns.

The applications of directional sound go quite a bit beyond messing with people at strip malls, important as this work may be. Norris is enthusiastic about all of the possibilities he can propose and the ones he can't. Imagine, he says, walking by a soda machine (say, one of the five million in Japan that will soon employ HSS), triggering a proximity detector, then hearing what you alone hear -- the plink of ice cubes and the invocation, ''Wouldn't a Coke taste great right about now?'' Or riding in the family car, as the kids blast Eminem in the back seat while you and the wife play Tony Bennett up front. Or living in a city where ambulance sirens don't wake the entire neighborhood at 4 a.m. Or hearing different and extremely targeted messages in every single aisle of a grocery store -- for instance, near the fresh produce, ''Hey, it's the heart of kiwi season!''

No observer would expect a technological revolution -- any revolution -- from Elwood G. Norris. At 64, he has the demeanor of nothing so much as a high-school football coach. He lacks every single cliche of how inventors are supposed to act and look: the eccentricities of hairstyle, attire and vocabulary. He dresses as if he lives a life of Saturdays, perpetually in khakis and polo shirts. He is utterly normal -- even peculiarly normal.

Norris's office might easily be that of an assistant sales manager for something. Insurance, maybe, or drill fittings. His company, American Technology Corporation, is painstakingly nondescript, tucked away on the same unadorned and unadorable industrial-ghetto roundabout as Teradyne and Intel. Set randomly among the offices and cubicles of his 30 employees, Norris's own room is tiny and generic to a fault. There is a map of the world's ocean floors, also a plant of some kind. ''Yep, it is small,'' he says, staring around him as if taken by surprise. ''We're puttin' all our cash into production of HSS. That's the plan.''

Norris wasn't the first to think of focusing sound waves. Far from it. Since the advent of the cone-shaped megaphone, every major acoustics company has traveled similar terrain. ''If I'd known how many people had tried to invent this thing, and how smart those people were, I never would have touched it,'' he says. ''Once we designed our own emitter -- which was not an obvious choice -- we patented every nut and bolt.'' Today, A.T.C. has 14 patents in the U.S. and hundreds pending worldwide. The company has spent millions on patents alone.

In the last year, Norris has not spent his time loitering at Radio Shacks and hoping for the best. A sampling of the companies that are in active talks with A.T.C. includes Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Dolby Laboratories, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, major TV networks and film studios, cellphone makers and museums all over the world, to say nothing of the world's big-ticket speaker manufacturers. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson and the U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill are now equipped with A.T.C. speakers, and the Navy has expressed interest in outfitting every carrier in the fleet. ''The L.A.P.D. wants to try it on high-crime alleys,'' Norris says. ''The Army might use HSS for decoy troop movements. And Disney is nuts about it!''

Even Florida Power and Light has been given a taste. It seems endangered canaries have been sparking themselves to death on power lines and could do with some warning.

HyperSonic Sound, on its face, has some very alluring features for major companies. With HSS, there is no piston-like action that moves the air and causes the distortions heard from conventional speakers; there are virtually no moving parts at all, so the device generates next to no heat. All of which actually makes HSS equipment cheaper. More to the point, an HSS transmission can travel 450 feet -- at pratically the same volume all along its path. Translated: at a concert, there's no need to melt the eyebrows of people sitting in the front rows. They'd hear the music at the same level as those lounging a football field away. ''A multibillion-dollar company we're dealing with wants one that'll carry for a mile,'' Norris says. ''And that is easily possible.''

In past months, Norris and his staff have made a further, key improvement to HSS -- instead of sending out a column of sound, they can now project a single sphere of it, self-contained, like a bubble.

This is all potentially very bad news for conventional-speaker companies, which Norris insists are essentially box merchants. That is, given the fact that there are only a handful of ''driver'' manufacturers in the world, it's often merely design that distinguishes high-end from low-end audio speakers. It's never the C.E.O.'s of major acoustics firms who go pale when they see demonstrations of HSS; it's the engineers, a fact that delights Norris no end. ''Those companies make slide rules and are being offered calculators,'' he says. ''There's a smugness that goes with being a huge company. The big fish say, 'If it's so great, why didn't we invent it?' But how'd you like to be makin' buggy whips when cars came along?''

High technology, of course, is a slow-turning ship, and some trade heavyweights believe that HSS, while interesting, has real limits. Floyd Toole, a vice president of acoustical engineering at Harman International -- the $1.8 billion corporation that owns JBL and Infinity -- is skeptical. ''HyperSonic Sound is not going to revolutionize the world, not going to replace the loudspeakers that we've all grown to love,'' Toole says. ''I was once quoted, incompletely, as saying HSS is 'a great party trick' -- and it still is! Actually, it's also a very useful device. In basic communication, its applications are limited only by the imagination. Though, the last time I saw it, three months ago, it still had a lot of distortion. It had no low range. You wouldn't want to enjoy music using HSS, but it can really hit a target. Still, we're not threatened. Nor is Woody trying to take our domain.''

Woody is not. His strategy is to avoid confronting major speaker firms -- for the time being. Better to start small, to look for places that currently don't have much to do with the acoustics trade. Museums, soda machines, produce aisles. ''We're gonna go after the low-hanging fruit, places where you don't yet find sound, so HSS will not be regarded as a threat,'' he says, before showing some of the flick-knife steel that had to be buried in there somewhere. ''And when we get strong, that's when we hit with a vengeance. We'll license with some Goliath of the industry -- a Sony or a Philips. Know how many new speakers were installed in 2002, from buses to boomboxes? Fifteen billion units. In'nat cool?''

Not surprisingly, people who've heard of HSS have responded variously. On any given day, Norris might receive 17 e-mail messages from a company in Hong Kong begging to manufacture HSS -- and several from civilians who think he's either a genius or a psychopath. One man recently wrote to insist that Norris ''be jailed'' if he fields this product (curiously, sending this demand to Norris). And a woman wants to secretly install HSS in her lover's car or golf bag so that she may continually transmit a message deep into his head: Marry Donna. . . . Marry Donna.

Yet some rave and others rage. It's all cool. Woody Norris is at his ease. He made his fortune 35 years ago and is now wealthy beyond his own ability to measure. His first invention was a medical product, simply because he was approached by a few friends who wanted to form a company but had nothing to sell -- and the man with the most money to invest was a doctor. So Norris went and bought a flashlight at Radio Shack (evidently his spiritual home), then picked up a piezoelectric crystal and fine-tuned his knowledge of the Doppler effect until he puzzled out a way to detect clots in blood vessels. This entire process took a Friday night and most of a Saturday. ''It was called 'Transcutaneous Doppler,' '' he recalls wistfully -- before adding, as a throwaway, ''Eventually, it evolved into the sonogram.''

There were a score of other inventions. Some panned out; some didn't. American Technology Corporation came into being in 1980 to nurture a long-play tape recorder, one that could fit 20 hours of sound on a regular cassette. Of course, CD technology put an end to all that. Shame, too, Norris says. They'd worked with drama students and everything -- had the whole New Testament recorded on one tape.

Despite his claim that he is ''a fundamentally lazy man,'' Norris was always tinkering. There was his innovation of the digital recorder in 1994 (another Popular Science ''Best of'' pick); the world's tiniest FM radio, weighing less than one-quarter of an ounce; a tracking device for wayward toddlers. These days, Norris's new love is the AirScooter, a personal helicopter that takes no more than an afternoon to master. It's slow, smooth and lacks the complexities of an actual copter. And, as it has been whittled down to meet the government's ''ultralight'' standard -- weighing less than 254 pounds -- you need not be licensed to fly it.

Often, Norris says, inventions are the result of some left-field theory he blurts out before he has time to think it through. Scientists at NASA once got wind of an offhand remark he had made about wireless receivers and flew him to Texas; they'd been having trouble with boom microphones slipping around inside space helmets. ''Suddenly I hear these words coming out of my mouth,'' Norris recalls: '' 'Well, I can give you a one-piece system so you won't need a boom mike at all. The sound can come through the bones in your head!' And the NASA guys were, like, 'Yeah. Right.' '' Thirty days later, Norris had a prototype, which the space agency grabbed with both hands. Norris translated the concept into an ''all-in-your-ear headset'' that came to be called Jabra.

''I did that technology in a weekend on my Mac at home!'' he says, roaring like a con man. ''And it's still selling. Some New Yorkers bought it for a couple million bucks -- and eventually it sold for $75 million to, I don't know, some Dutch company.'' Norris is often hazy on whatever happened to his original concepts, as he abandons them once they near the manufacturing stage. He just loses interest. With some (the digital recorder, for example), he's not even exactly sure if he's still receiving royalties. Presumably, his money managers know.

Of all Norris's inventions to date, though, it's HSS that could prove the most pervasive. The specter of a world shattered into billions of potential advertising spheres -- of inescapable, intrusive voices, as in a less-rainy version of ''Blade Runner'' -- has a way of concerning people.

To Norris's way of thinking, however, a shop with 100 confined spheres of sound is preferable to one where 12 speakers are blaring over each other. Of course, you might argue that Norris needs to believe that. After all, A.T.C. has seven years and over $40 million in this project. But that isn't exactly so. Besides being wealthy to the point where he's sheepish about it, Norris has already moved on to other inventions, a few books and even a sci-fi screenplay in which, he says, both Fox and Sony have shown real interest.

For the moment, though, HSS is unfinished business. As night must follow day, there are Defense Department applications. Norris and A.T.C. have been busy honing something called High Intensity Directed Acoustics (HIDA, in house jargon). It is directional sound -- an offshoot of HSS -- but one that never, ever transmits Handel or waterfall sounds. Although the technology thus far has been routinely referred to as a ''nonlethal weapon,'' the Pentagon now prefers to stress the friendlier-sounding ''hailing intruders'' function.

In reality, HIDA is both warning and weapon. If used from a battleship, it can ward off stray crafts at 500 yards with a pinpointed verbal warning. Should the offending vessel continue to within 200 yards, the stern warnings are replaced by 120-decibel sounds that are as physically disabling as shrapnel. Certain noises, projected at the right pitch, can incapacitate even a stone-deaf terrorist; the bones in your head are brutalized by a tone's full effect whether you're clutching the sides of your skull in agony or not. ''Besides,'' Norris says, laughing darkly, ''grabbing your ears is as good as a pair of handcuffs.''

If the U.S.S. Cole had been equipped with a HIDA system, the attack of October 2000 could never have succeeded. Most of the sounds under military consideration are classified, but some are approved for public consumption. One truly harrowing noise is that of a baby crying, played backward, and combined with another tone. As usual, Woody Norris is pleased to demonstrate. Woody Norris is pleased about everything.

Nimbly holding a big black plate, Norris stands with me in an A.T.C. sound chamber. Since he's poised behind the weapon, he will hear no sound once it's powered up: not a peep. ''HIDA can instantaneously cause loss of equilibrium, vomiting, migraines -- really, we can pretty much pick our ailment,'' he says brightly. ''We've delivered a couple dozen units so far, but will have a lot more out by June. They're talking millions!'' (Last month, A.T.C. cut a five-year, multimillion-dollar licensing agreement with General Dynamics, one of the giants of the military-industrial complex.)

Norris prods his assistant to locate the baby noise on a laptop, then aims the device at me. At first, the noise is dreadful -- just primally wrong -- but not unbearable. I repeatedly tell Norris to crank it up (trying to approximate battle-strength volume, without the nausea), until the noise isn't so much a noise as an assault on my nervous system. I nearly fall down and, for some reason, my eyes hurt. When I bravely ask how high they'd turned the dial, Norris laughs uproariously. ''That was nothing!'' he bellows. ''That was about 1 percent of what an enemy would get. One percent!'' Two hours later, I can still feel the ache in the back of my head.

Norris grew up in Cumberland, Md., living in what may justly be called abject poverty. Until he was out of high school, indoor plumbing was not a feature of his home life. His mother was a devout Mormon who had a succession of husbands, none of whom was much of a force in the boy Norris's life. ''I was embarrassed by some of my relatives,'' he says, making a rare break in eye contact. ''All they ever did was drink. I had a terrible fear of not being normal -- of not seeming normal. So I went to the library and read every psychology book I could find. Anything about how normal people behave.''

Even his identity seemed constantly in flux. Until he was 17, his surname was Harden. For reasons he remains hazy about, his mother deemed it necessary to haul the boy down to the courthouse and legally change his name at that rather advanced age. Discussing it, Norris's jaunty tone never falters, but a deadness in his eyes transmits -- quite directionally -- the blunt truth that these were dark times for him, rooms of his memory he doesn't care to revisit. His new life is brighter and built to his liking.

Despite his lumbering, sports-fan exterior, there were no sports in Woody's kidhood. His passion was visiting local radio-repair shops and talking them out of their scraps. ''I must've ripped apart 20 or 30 radios,'' he says. ''There were broken TV's in our chicken coop.'' He read everything about electronics he could lay two hands on. At an age where boys are immersed in Salinger or Henry Miller, young Woody was mesmerized by ''Understanding Radio.''

Through all those desperate attempts at normality, Norris remained a staunch Mormon. After serving in the Air Force, he spent 16 years living in Salt Lake City and achieved the level of high priest. He wore the ''sacred undergarments,'' married his first wife in the Temple, the works. But by the early 90's, having previously written a book on Mormonism, he had lost his faith and now has a 1,000-page manuscript stashed away that, he says, takes strong issue with the Book of Mormon. Still, debunking Joseph Smith will have to wait. There are screenplays to polish. There are impossible machines to conceive, then abandon.

While Norris's work quarters are cramped and modest, his house is quite the other thing. To thrust some dime-store psychology upon him, Elwood Norris has sought to expunge the deprivations of his youth with garishly expressed prosperity.

The Norris estate is Mediterranean style, on what seems the highest hill near San Diego, surrounded by what appear to be a few counties of rolling coastal sage. Outside the place, overlooking its 44 acres, there's a vanishing-edge pool, a guest house, garage space for the family's three Lexus cars (with a slot to spare). Freshly antiqued Roman columns and statues of stallions blot out shards of the mountain view. Sculptured cherubs' faces, affixed to the house here and there, turn out to be modeled after Norris's youngest daughter, Tiffany, whereabouts unknown -- though, since the edifice is 20,000 square feet, no one would be the wiser if she were throwing a huge party in there somewhere.

Not a surface of the mansion's interior is deprived of gilt or silk or velvet; you'd swear it. There is a mind-bendingly well-stocked screening room, a pistol range, miniature models of towns assembled in rooms that seem designed specifically to showcase miniature models of towns. Only the wine cellar is underwhelming. Norris, the lapsed Mormon who hadn't a sip of alcohol or caffeine until the age of 50, is new to the stuff. Seven bottles of Something French are huddled together under a table at the back of the room, as if hiding in hostile territory.

Norris claims he wanted the house to be twice its size, but his wife put that idea to rest with all speed. Though he recognizes opulence when he sees it, much of the glitter still seems foreign to him. He knows that there are 335 miles of wiring in the place -- but can only approximate the number of bathrooms. He is sure there are six or seven bedrooms. ''I'll find out and get those numbers to you tomorrow,'' he says distractedly, as if these are business stats. ''I'm better on other numbers. There are 60 surveillance cameras inside, 15 on the property. And 130 motion detectors. I can check out the whole place from any computer terminal in the world.''

Out in a garage, Norris has stashed the prototype of his AirScooter; even this comparatively clunky incarnation acts on him like a tonic. Laying a loving hand on the thing, he marvels at the breakthrough of giving it two oppositely directed blades to counter the gyroscopic effect; a flexible pivot between the blades and the seat keeps the pilot ever-steady. ''The fact that there are two blades and that it doesn't need a tail rotor,'' he says, ''that was so not intuitive. There's a million bucks in this.''

I ask the inescapable question: if anyone can buy and fly one of these helicopters, isn't there the possibility of, well, grim and horrible chaos?

''Oh, not at all,'' he says. ''Look. There are hundreds of thousands of hang gliders in this country. Same with motorcycles. And you rarely even see one of 'em!''

The AirScooter's inception was typical of Norris's restless habit of simply walking away once an invention seems to have taken final shape. At A.T.C., once HyperSonic Sound was near completion, he started musing about the science of aviation. That was a frontier he'd never crossed, despite the hang-gliding scar that is lost in his well-creased forehead.

So he worked backward, as usual. ''It went like this: I've always wanted to fly, but I don't like going to the airport,'' he says, ticking off his logic, one pink finger at a time. ''I don't want to have to get a license. And I really don't want to go 100 m.p.h. So that set out the parameters right there. I consulted with Boeing engineers briefly, then raised $2 million in 20 minutes. My friends wanted in.''

Though HSS and the minicopter are making headway -- the full-size AirScooter will be available to the public by year's end, with a starting price of about $50,000 -- Norris is deeply involved in two new projects. He refuses to discuss these in any detail. His lab, in a rackety building near his house, smells of stingingly powerful glue and is cluttered with disparate apparatus: a gas chromatograph, transistor oscilloscopes, a one-million-Gauss magnet strong enough to tear fabric and human flesh alike. I ask if there's anything here that will betray Secret Things he's working on, but Norris has already disinfected the place of clues.

One project, he acknowledges, involves hydrogen and fuel cells. Of course, a man with secrets divulges first what he values least. It's Norris's way that, the more open he is with his first statement, the more he will clamp shut with his next. This is no exception.

The second project, he says, would make the rest of his career pale by comparison -- and he claims he has had early success. In all of this work, Norris has employed the tradecraft of his chosen profession to keep everything close to the vest. He buys his equipment at several machine shops so that no one can get an inkling of what he's doing. He hires separate scientists at separate universities to perform separate experiments -- and pays computer experts to train him to do the final, what he calls ''fourth-level,'' stage of analysis. ''I need to work that way,'' he says. ''It's like when two guys discover gold together. One kills the other.''

When I press him for a single word that would offer at least a vague idea of the Big Invention's category, he squints for a full minute and, seemingly in pain, whispers one out: matter. Then he searches my face for signs of recognition, half terrified that I'll guess what the technology is and half hoping I will. He is dying to say. It's his holy grail.

No one will ever know what makes inventors capable of staring at that which does not yet exist. Perhaps some form of hardship, in one's early years, is a factor. Edison went practically deaf as a boy; Alexander Graham Bell lost both his brothers to tuberculosis and was so sickly that his family moved to Canada in the hope of bracing him up. Then again, Benjamin Franklin and the Wright Brothers sauntered through childhood without a scratch. Woody Norris, in his formative years, was by no means unhealthy, but poverty left indelible marks. Maybe, in his case, that was a catalyst. Maybe mechanical figments were the cure when reality wasn't enough.

Lunch seems to offer Norris at his most philosophical. There's nothing like potato soup to remind you of the big picture. ''I'm very simple,'' he says, quite seriously. ''I have to be. I'm not very smart. I start broad, then go deep where I'm interested.''

Focus is Norris's real meat and drink -- but he will always go broad before going deep. He never finished college. He didn't want some university to foist a narrow course upon him. Instead, he veered all over the map, from physics to the philosophy of religion. ''I'm not even an engineer,'' he says, though he can only mean this in the most technical terms. ''I don't have a college degree; I hire guys with college degrees.''

Perhaps because ignorance has served him well (of the history of acoustics research, for example), he is protective of his limitations. He knows better than to swim in all the oceans. ''These guys, like Hawking, they look too far away,'' he says. ''They make it too complicated. Eleven dimensions, whatever. The answer is in front of your nose.''

Suddenly, it strikes Woody Norris that he has been speaking to a clear plastic straw for the past several seconds: pondering it, turning it around in his hands and in his head. ''This is so cool,'' he says, almost in awe. ''It's so cheap, so elegant. People throw these away! Someday this thing is gonna lead to a real invention.''

Marshall Sella is a contributing writer for the magazine.

This will likely become... (4, Interesting)

iiioxx (610652) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578631)

the most abused technology in history. I have visions of teenage drive-by "screamers" hitting pedestrians with targeted high-decibel music as a prank.

What about sonic weapons? Is there any reason why a rigged emitter couldn't be built that would emit a signal loud enough to rupture the eardrums of a specific target? Or at the very least, cause excruciating pain?

I think the inevitable barrage of targeted advertising will be the least of our worries with this new technology.

Re:This will likely become... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578680)

I would project the "Better Get Maaco" commercial into their heads, causing them to stop short at the "beep beep" and getting their precious vintage cars rear-ended. Ha ha! Take that, larry.

Re:This will likely become... (4, Informative)

MattCohn.com (555899) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578803)

Read deeper into the article my friend...

For the moment, though, HSS is unfinished business. As night must follow day, there are Defense Department applications. Norris and A.T.C. have been busy honing something called High Intensity Directed Acoustics (HIDA, in house jargon). It is directional sound -- an offshoot of HSS -- but one that never, ever transmits Handel or waterfall sounds. Although the technology thus far has been routinely referred to as a ''nonlethal weapon,'' the Pentagon now prefers to stress the friendlier-sounding ''hailing intruders'' function.

In reality, HIDA is both warning and weapon. If used from a battleship, it can ward off stray crafts at 500 yards with a pinpointed verbal warning. Should the offending vessel continue to within 200 yards, the stern warnings are replaced by 120-decibel sounds that are as physically disabling as shrapnel. Certain noises, projected at the right pitch, can incapacitate even a stone-deaf terrorist; the bones in your head are brutalized by a tone's full effect whether you're clutching the sides of your skull in agony or not.

And then later, he asks to have a demo...

Norris prods his assistant to locate the baby noise on a laptop, then aims the device at me. At first, the noise is dreadful -- just primally wrong -- but not unbearable. I repeatedly tell Norris to crank it up (trying to approximate battle-strength volume, without the nausea), until the noise isn't so much a noise as an assault on my nervous system. I nearly fall down and, for some reason, my eyes hurt. When I bravely ask how high they'd turned the dial, Norris laughs uproariously. ''That was nothing!'' he bellows. ''That was about 1 percent of what an enemy would get. One percent!'' Two hours later, I can still feel the ache in the back of my head.

while the technology is cool (3, Interesting)

McDrewbie (530348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578632)

While the technology is cool and perhaps one day will be refined for home music consumption, its ability to be used as a non-lethal incapacitating weapon is scary. What could a corrupt government do with these devices. Would public protests against the government eliminated by these devices? (under the normal guise of controlling the crowd and responding to protesters crossing police barriers.)

ATTENTION! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578633)

This is what George W Bush brought upon our troops.

American Soldiers Dead in Iraq [mediaorgy.com]

Educate yourself.

What Really Happened [whatreallyhappened.com]

Re:ATTENTION! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578665)

Neat. Zionist paranoia websites. Always good for a look.

Sounds...annoying (5, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578637)

"Imagine, he says, walking by a soda machine (say, one of the five million in Japan that will soon employ HSS), triggering a proximity detector, then hearing what you alone hear -- the plink of ice cubes and the invocation, ''Wouldn't a Coke taste great right about now?'' Or riding in the family car, as the kids blast Eminem in the back seat while you and the wife play Tony Bennett up front. Or living in a city where ambulance sirens don't wake the entire neighborhood at 4 a.m. Or hearing different and extremely targeted messages in every single aisle of a grocery store -- for instance, near the fresh produce, ''Hey, it's the heart of kiwi season!''"

The bit about different people in the car only hearing their own music is cool. The annoying pop machines and, even worse, PRODUCE ISLES, are just awful. I mean, I can look away from an obnoxious billboard etc, but there is no way to stop this! Not even plugging your ears, since it is IN your head!

Also, using it for emergency sirens? One of the biggest problems with CURRENT emergency sirens is that it is VERY difficult for the human ear to tell which direction it is coming from, because of the specific frequencies used. If it projects the sound INTO your head, there will be no way in HELL to know where it is coming from.

Another problem with using it for sirens is that it is important to hear the siren well before the emergency vehicle reaches you. This system appears to be LOS, so how well will that work? It would only work if the ultrasonic sounds can penetrate through surrounding houses and so on, which would be FAR worse than current sirens, as the walls of your house wouldn't dampen it! And if it CAN'T penetrate through your walls, then I don't see how CARS wouldn't block it, too; It is VERY important that people inside of cars be able to hear the siren!

Re:Sounds...annoying (1)

fuctape (618618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578777)

Didn't read the article, eh? You *can* affect directionality with it:

"...and, to illustrate the directionality of the beam, subtly turns the plate side to side. And the sound is inside my head, roving between my ears in accord with each of Norris's turns."

C'mon, it was in the 7th paragraph.

god (4, Funny)

chillax137 (612431) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578643)

Maybe I can finally get girls to put out thinking that they're getting messages from god.

Ill really be impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578653)

...when they can get a laser show going on in there. I've always wanted to be my own laser zeppelin show at the planetarium .

And Kent (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578670)

Stop playing with yourself!

vending machines whispering to you... (1)

Rxke (644923) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578673)

By this i swear i'll bash the first vending machine that tries to lay that kind of trick upon me... God how i hate commercials. this just is not right. im already crazy enough by myself thank you

Re:vending machines whispering to you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578746)

Why? Hack and reprogram the soda machine to knock out anybody that tries to repair it with a high decibel sound that can't be defended against. After the repair bill, and hospital bills from that one, the offending companies may begin to get your point. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I will stop, and search for the device, smash it!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578681)

I want everyone to be very aware of the fact that there will be people out there that will be VERY VERY disturbed by this technology.

This must be one of the worst and frightening inventions I can think of (right next to vx gas).

If this sort of thing happened to me, I would gladly stop in my tracks, figure out where this is emanating from, and quickly smash it to pieces.

No freakin way is someone going to beam crap into my head. The possibilities for abuse is ASTRONOMICAL. God, the North Korean government would love something like this.

-Anonymous Coward

Oh boy ... (1)

DaemonGem (557674) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578683)

Can we slashdot soundwaves now?
-Dae

Reminds Me Of That One Futurama... (5, Funny)

Cyno01 (573917) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578685)

Fry: So you're telling me they broadcast commercials into people's dreams?

Leela: Of course.

Fry: But, how is that possible?

Farnsworth: It's very simple. The ad gets into your brain just like this liquid gets into this egg. [He holds up an egg and injects it with liquid. The egg explodes.] Although in reality it's not liquid, but gamma radiation.

Fry: That's awful. It's like brainwashing.

Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?

Fry: Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines. And movies. And at ball games and on buses and milk cartons and t-shirts and written on the sky. But not in dreams. No siree!

conversely (5, Interesting)

rigelstar (243170) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578693)

The real winner will be the engineer that develops a practical system to counter-act such a device. A small device such as a watch that can detect the signal and then send a destructive wave to cancel the signal would be good.

its like in deer hunter... (2, Funny)

RyLaN (608672) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578695)

or whatever that game was where you shot at the people using calls such as 'im naked, and i have a pizza..' imagine the hunters expressions after 6 hours in a tent.. :-)

I'm sceptical about some of the uses mentioned... (4, Insightful)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578705)

I think there are certainly some uses for this technology. One of the best examples was a museum. When you stand in front of a painting, you and you alone hear a description of it. For others, I'm sceptical. For example, most of the soda machines I see are tucked away. Generally, if I'm close enough to see the machine, its because I want to buy a soda. It seems a little senseless to advertise to someone who is in the process of buying it. Other examples he mentions, such as kids in the back seat of a car are easily handled with current technology -- headphones. I don't see any added benefit.

Dangerous (2, Insightful)

terradyn (242947) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578711)

They explain the concept on how to disable the enemy with this technology. Take the reverse baby crying sound and crank up the output signal for the speaker. What's to stop someone from buying the speakers in the future and doing the exact same thing to civilians/police? I'd hate to see this type of technology in the hands of terrorists. Imagine sonic bombs taking out city blocks (given that the inventor says 1% output could nauseate the author for hours, what do you think 100% output would do)?

For those who don't care to register at NYT.. (0, Redundant)

rI'HaD martaq (660120) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578718)

Article is several pages long, bear with me here.

No one ever notices what's going on at a Radio Shack. Outside a lonely branch of the electronics store, on a government-issue San Diego day in a strip mall where no one is noticing much of anything, a bluff man with thinning, ginger hair and preternaturally white teeth is standing on the pavement, slowly waving a square metal plate toward people strolling in the distance. ''Watch that lady over there,'' he says, unable to conceal his boyish pride for the gadget in his giant hand. ''This is really cool.''

Woody Norris aims the silvery plate at his quarry. A burly brunette 200 feet away stops dead in her tracks and peers around, befuddled. She has walked straight into the noise of a Brazilian rain forest -- then out again. Even in her shopping reverie, here among the haircutters and storefront tax-preparers and dubious Middle Eastern bistros, her senses inform her that she has just stepped through a discrete column of sound, a sharply demarcated beam of unexpected sound. ''Look at that,'' Norris mutters, chuckling as the lady turns around. ''She doesn't know what hit her.''

Norris is demonstrating something called HyperSonic Sound (HSS). The aluminum plate is connected to a CD player and an odd amplifier -- actually, a very odd and very new amplifier -- that directs sound much as a laser beam directs light. Over the past few years, mainly in secret, he has shown the device to more than 300 major companies, and it has slackened a lot of jaws. In December, the editors of Popular Science magazine bestowed upon HSS its grand prize for new inventions of 2002, choosing it over the ferociously hyped Segway scooter. It is no exaggeration to say that HSS represents the first revolution in acoustics since the loudspeaker was invented 78 years ago -- and perhaps only the second since pilgrims used ''whispering tubes'' to convey their dour messages.

As Norris continues to baffle shoppers by sniping at them with the noises he has on this CD (ice cubes clanking into a glass, a Handel concerto, the plash of a waterfall), some are spooked, and some are drawn in. Two teenage girls drift over from 100 feet away and ask, in bizarre Diane Arbus-type unison, ''What is that?''

Norris responds with his affable mantra -- ''In'nat cool?'' -- before going into a bit of simplified detail: how the sound waves are actually made audible not at the surface of the metal plate but at the listener's ears. He doesn't bother to torment the girls with the scientific gymnastics of how data are being converted to ultrasound then back again to human-accessible frequencies along a confined column of air. ''See, the way your brain perceives it, the sound is being created right here,'' Norris explains to the Arbus girls, lifting a palm to the side of his head. ''That's why it's so clear. Feels like it's inside your skull, doesn't it?''

In the years Norris has demonstrated HSS, he says, that's been the universal reaction: the sound is inside my head. So that's the way he has started to describe it.

Just to check the distances, I pace out a hundred yards and see if the thing is really working. (I've tried this other times -- in a posh hotel in Manhattan, in another parking lot in San Diego -- but HSS is so often suspected of being a parlor trick that it always seems to bear checking.) Norris pelts me with the Handel and, to illustrate the directionality of the beam, subtly turns the plate side to side. And the sound is inside my head, roving between my ears in accord with each of Norris's turns.

The applications of directional sound go quite a bit beyond messing with people at strip malls, important as this work may be. Norris is enthusiastic about all of the possibilities he can propose and the ones he can't. Imagine, he says, walking by a soda machine (say, one of the five million in Japan that will soon employ HSS), triggering a proximity detector, then hearing what you alone hear -- the plink of ice cubes and the invocation, ''Wouldn't a Coke taste great right about now?'' Or riding in the family car, as the kids blast Eminem in the back seat while you and the wife play Tony Bennett up front. Or living in a city where ambulance sirens don't wake the entire neighborhood at 4 a.m. Or hearing different and extremely targeted messages in every single aisle of a grocery store -- for instance, near the fresh produce, ''Hey, it's the heart of kiwi season!''

No observer would expect a technological revolution -- any revolution -- from Elwood G. Norris. At 64, he has the demeanor of nothing so much as a high-school football coach. He lacks every single cliche of how inventors are supposed to act and look: the eccentricities of hairstyle, attire and vocabulary. He dresses as if he lives a life of Saturdays, perpetually in khakis and polo shirts. He is utterly normal -- even peculiarly normal.

Norris's office might easily be that of an assistant sales manager for something. Insurance, maybe, or drill fittings. His company, American Technology Corporation, is painstakingly nondescript, tucked away on the same unadorned and unadorable industrial-ghetto roundabout as Teradyne and Intel. Set randomly among the offices and cubicles of his 30 employees, Norris's own room is tiny and generic to a fault. There is a map of the world's ocean floors, also a plant of some kind. ''Yep, it is small,'' he says, staring around him as if taken by surprise. ''We're puttin' all our cash into production of HSS. That's the plan.''

Norris wasn't the first to think of focusing sound waves. Far from it. Since the advent of the cone-shaped megaphone, every major acoustics company has traveled similar terrain. ''If I'd known how many people had tried to invent this thing, and how smart those people were, I never would have touched it,'' he says. ''Once we designed our own emitter -- which was not an obvious choice -- we patented every nut and bolt.'' Today, A.T.C. has 14 patents in the U.S. and hundreds pending worldwide. The company has spent millions on patents alone.

In the last year, Norris has not spent his time loitering at Radio Shacks and hoping for the best. A sampling of the companies that are in active talks with A.T.C. includes Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Dolby Laboratories, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, major TV networks and film studios, cellphone makers and museums all over the world, to say nothing of the world's big-ticket speaker manufacturers. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson and the U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill are now equipped with A.T.C. speakers, and the Navy has expressed interest in outfitting every carrier in the fleet. ''The L.A.P.D. wants to try it on high-crime alleys,'' Norris says. ''The Army might use HSS for decoy troop movements. And Disney is nuts about it!''

Even Florida Power and Light has been given a taste. It seems endangered canaries have been sparking themselves to death on power lines and could do with some warning.

HyperSonic Sound, on its face, has some very alluring features for major companies. With HSS, there is no piston-like action that moves the air and causes the distortions heard from conventional speakers; there are virtually no moving parts at all, so the device generates next to no heat. All of which actually makes HSS equipment cheaper. More to the point, an HSS transmission can travel 450 feet -- at pratically the same volume all along its path. Translated: at a concert, there's no need to melt the eyebrows of people sitting in the front rows. They'd hear the music at the same level as those lounging a football field away. ''A multibillion-dollar company we're dealing with wants one that'll carry for a mile,'' Norris says. ''And that is easily possible.''

In past months, Norris and his staff have made a further, key improvement to HSS -- instead of sending out a column of sound, they can now project a single sphere of it, self-contained, like a bubble.

This is all potentially very bad news for conventional-speaker companies, which Norris insists are essentially box merchants. That is, given the fact that there are only a handful of ''driver'' manufacturers in the world, it's often merely design that distinguishes high-end from low-end audio speakers. It's never the C.E.O.'s of major acoustics firms who go pale when they see demonstrations of HSS; it's the engineers, a fact that delights Norris no end. ''Those companies make slide rules and are being offered calculators,'' he says. ''There's a smugness that goes with being a huge company. The big fish say, 'If it's so great, why didn't we invent it?' But how'd you like to be makin' buggy whips when cars came along?''

High technology, of course, is a slow-turning ship, and some trade heavyweights believe that HSS, while interesting, has real limits. Floyd Toole, a vice president of acoustical engineering at Harman International -- the $1.8 billion corporation that owns JBL and Infinity -- is skeptical. ''HyperSonic Sound is not going to revolutionize the world, not going to replace the loudspeakers that we've all grown to love,'' Toole says. ''I was once quoted, incompletely, as saying HSS is 'a great party trick' -- and it still is! Actually, it's also a very useful device. In basic communication, its applications are limited only by the imagination. Though, the last time I saw it, three months ago, it still had a lot of distortion. It had no low range. You wouldn't want to enjoy music using HSS, but it can really hit a target. Still, we're not threatened. Nor is Woody trying to take our domain.''

Woody is not. His strategy is to avoid confronting major speaker firms -- for the time being. Better to start small, to look for places that currently don't have much to do with the acoustics trade. Museums, soda machines, produce aisles. ''We're gonna go after the low-hanging fruit, places where you don't yet find sound, so HSS will not be regarded as a threat,'' he says, before showing some of the flick-knife steel that had to be buried in there somewhere. ''And when we get strong, that's when we hit with a vengeance. We'll license with some Goliath of the industry -- a Sony or a Philips. Know how many new speakers were installed in 2002, from buses to boomboxes? Fifteen billion units. In'nat cool?''

Not surprisingly, people who've heard of HSS have responded variously. On any given day, Norris might receive 17 e-mail messages from a company in Hong Kong begging to manufacture HSS -- and several from civilians who think he's either a genius or a psychopath. One man recently wrote to insist that Norris ''be jailed'' if he fields this product (curiously, sending this demand to Norris). And a woman wants to secretly install HSS in her lover's car or golf bag so that she may continually transmit a message deep into his head: Marry Donna. . . . Marry Donna.

Let some rave and others rage. It's all cool. Woody Norris is at his ease. He made his fortune 35 years ago and is now wealthy beyond his own ability to measure. His first invention was a medical product, simply because he was approached by a few friends who wanted to form a company but had nothing to sell -- and the man with the most money to invest was a doctor. So Norris went and bought a flashlight at Radio Shack (evidently his spiritual home), then picked up a piezoelectric crystal and fine-tuned his knowledge of the Doppler effect until he puzzled out a way to detect clots in blood vessels. This entire process took a Friday night and most of a Saturday. ''It was called 'Transcutaneous Doppler,' '' he recalls wistfully -- before adding, as a throwaway, ''Eventually, it evolved into the sonogram.''

There were a score of other inventions. Some panned out; some didn't. American Technology Corporation came into being in 1980 to nurture a long-play tape recorder, one that could fit 20 hours of sound on a regular cassette. Of course, CD technology put an end to all that. Shame, too, Norris says. They'd worked with drama students and everything -- had the whole New Testament recorded on one tape.

Despite his claim that he is ''a fundamentally lazy man,'' Norris was always tinkering. There was his innovation of the digital recorder in 1994 (another Popular Science ''Best of'' pick); the world's tiniest FM radio, weighing less than one-quarter of an ounce; a tracking device for wayward toddlers. These days, Norris's new love is the AirScooter, a personal helicopter that takes no more than an afternoon to master. It's slow, smooth and lacks the complexities of an actual copter. And, as it has been whittled down to meet the government's ''ultralight'' standard -- weighing less than 254 pounds -- you need not be licensed to fly it.

Often, Norris says, inventions are the result of some left-field theory he blurts out before he has time to think it through. Scientists at NASA once got wind of an offhand remark he had made about wireless receivers and flew him to Texas; they'd been having trouble with boom microphones slipping around inside space helmets. ''Suddenly I hear these words coming out of my mouth,'' Norris recalls: '' 'Well, I can give you a one-piece system so you won't need a boom mike at all. The sound can come through the bones in your head!' And the NASA guys were, like, 'Yeah. Right.' '' Thirty days later, Norris had a prototype, which the space agency grabbed with both hands. Norris translated the concept into an ''all-in-your-ear headset'' that came to be called Jabra.

''I did that technology in a weekend on my Mac at home!'' he says, roaring like a con man. ''And it's still selling. Some New Yorkers bought it for a couple million bucks -- and eventually it sold for $75 million to, I don't know, some Dutch company.'' Norris is often hazy on whatever happened to his original concepts, as he abandons them once they near the manufacturing stage. He just loses interest. With some (the digital recorder, for example), he's not even exactly sure if he's still receiving royalties. Presumably, his money managers know.

Of all Norris's inventions to date, though, it's HSS that could prove the most pervasive. The specter of a world shattered into billions of potential advertising spheres -- of inescapable, intrusive voices, as in a less-rainy version of ''Blade Runner'' -- has a way of concerning people.

To Norris's way of thinking, however, a shop with 100 confined spheres of sound is preferable to one where 12 speakers are blaring over each other. Of course, you might argue that Norris needs to believe that. After all, A.T.C. has seven years and over $40 million in this project. But that isn't exactly so. Besides being wealthy to the point where he's sheepish about it, Norris has already moved on to other inventions, a few books and even a sci-fi screenplay in which, he says, both Fox and Sony have shown real interest.

For the moment, though, HSS is unfinished business. As night must follow day, there are Defense Department applications. Norris and A.T.C. have been busy honing something called High Intensity Directed Acoustics (HIDA, in house jargon). It is directional sound -- an offshoot of HSS -- but one that never, ever transmits Handel or waterfall sounds. Although the technology thus far has been routinely referred to as a ''nonlethal weapon,'' the Pentagon now prefers to stress the friendlier-sounding ''hailing intruders'' function.

In reality, HIDA is both warning and weapon. If used from a battleship, it can ward off stray crafts at 500 yards with a pinpointed verbal warning. Should the offending vessel continue to within 200 yards, the stern warnings are replaced by 120-decibel sounds that are as physically disabling as shrapnel. Certain noises, projected at the right pitch, can incapacitate even a stone-deaf terrorist; the bones in your head are brutalized by a tone's full effect whether you're clutching the sides of your skull in agony or not. ''Besides,'' Norris says, laughing darkly, ''grabbing your ears is as good as a pair of handcuffs.''

If the U.S.S. Cole had been equipped with a HIDA system, the attack of October 2000 could never have succeeded. Most of the sounds under military consideration are classified, but some are approved for public consumption. One truly harrowing noise is that of a baby crying, played backward, and combined with another tone. As usual, Woody Norris is pleased to demonstrate. Woody Norris is pleased about everything.

Nimbly holding a big black plate, Norris stands with me in an A.T.C. sound chamber. Since he's poised behind the weapon, he will hear no sound once it's powered up: not a peep. ''HIDA can instantaneously cause loss of equilibrium, vomiting, migraines -- really, we can pretty much pick our ailment,'' he says brightly. ''We've delivered a couple dozen units so far, but will have a lot more out by June. They're talking millions!'' (Last month, A.T.C. cut a five-year, multimillion-dollar licensing agreement with General Dynamics, one of the giants of the military-industrial complex.)

Norris prods his assistant to locate the baby noise on a laptop, then aims the device at me. At first, the noise is dreadful -- just primally wrong -- but not unbearable. I repeatedly tell Norris to crank it up (trying to approximate battle-strength volume, without the nausea), until the noise isn't so much a noise as an assault on my nervous system. I nearly fall down and, for some reason, my eyes hurt. When I bravely ask how high they'd turned the dial, Norris laughs uproariously. ''That was nothing!'' he bellows. ''That was about 1 percent of what an enemy would get. One percent!'' Two hours later, I can still feel the ache in the back of my head.

Norris grew up in Cumberland, Md., living in what may justly be called abject poverty. Until he was out of high school, indoor plumbing was not a feature of his home life. His mother was a devout Mormon who had a succession of husbands, none of whom was much of a force in the boy Norris's life. ''I was embarrassed by some of my relatives,'' he says, making a rare break in eye contact. ''All they ever did was drink. I had a terrible fear of not being normal -- of not seeming normal. So I went to the library and read every psychology book I could find. Anything about how normal people behave.''

Even his identity seemed constantly in flux. Until he was 17, his surname was Harden. For reasons he remains hazy about, his mother deemed it necessary to haul the boy down to the courthouse and legally change his name at that rather advanced age. Discussing it, Norris's jaunty tone never falters, but a deadness in his eyes transmits -- quite directionally -- the blunt truth that these were dark times for him, rooms of his memory he doesn't care to revisit. His new life is brighter and built to his liking.

Despite his lumbering, sports-fan exterior, there were no sports in Woody's kidhood. His passion was visiting local radio-repair shops and talking them out of their scraps. ''I must've ripped apart 20 or 30 radios,'' he says. ''There were broken TV's in our chicken coop.'' He read everything about electronics he could lay two hands on. At an age where boys are immersed in Salinger or Henry Miller, young Woody was mesmerized by ''Understanding Radio.''

Through all those desperate attempts at normality, Norris remained a staunch Mormon. After serving in the Air Force, he spent 16 years living in Salt Lake City and achieved the level of high priest. He wore the ''sacred undergarments,'' married his first wife in the Temple, the works. But by the early 90's, having previously written a book on Mormonism, he had lost his faith and now has a 1,000-page manuscript stashed away that, he says, takes strong issue with the Book of Mormon. Still, debunking Joseph Smith will have to wait. There are screenplays to polish. There are impossible machines to conceive, then abandon.

While Norris's work quarters are cramped and modest, his house is quite the other thing. To thrust some dime-store psychology upon him, Elwood Norris has sought to expunge the deprivations of his youth with garishly expressed prosperity.

The Norris estate is Mediterranean style, on what seems the highest hill near San Diego, surrounded by what appear to be a few counties of rolling coastal sage. Outside the place, overlooking its 44 acres, there's a vanishing-edge pool, a guest house, garage space for the family's three Lexus cars (with a slot to spare). Freshly antiqued Roman columns and statues of stallions blot out shards of the mountain view. Sculptured cherubs' faces, affixed to the house here and there, turn out to be modeled after Norris's youngest daughter, Tiffany, whereabouts unknown -- though, since the edifice is 20,000 square feet, no one would be the wiser if she were throwing a huge party in there somewhere.

Not a surface of the mansion's interior is deprived of gilt or silk or velvet; you'd swear it. There is a mind-bendingly well-stocked screening room, a pistol range, miniature models of towns assembled in rooms that seem designed specifically to showcase miniature models of towns. Only the wine cellar is underwhelming. Norris, the lapsed Mormon who hadn't a sip of alcohol or caffeine until the age of 50, is new to the stuff. Seven bottles of Something French are huddled together under a table at the back of the room, as if hiding in hostile territory.

Norris claims he wanted the house to be twice its size, but his wife put that idea to rest with all speed. Though he recognizes opulence when he sees it, much of the glitter still seems foreign to him. He knows that there are 335 miles of wiring in the place -- but can only approximate the number of bathrooms. He is sure there are six or seven bedrooms. ''I'll find out and get those numbers to you tomorrow,'' he says distractedly, as if these are business stats. ''I'm better on other numbers. There are 60 surveillance cameras inside, 15 on the property. And 130 motion detectors. I can check out the whole place from any computer terminal in the world.''

Out in a garage, Norris has stashed the prototype of his AirScooter; even this comparatively clunky incarnation acts on him like a tonic. Laying a loving hand on the thing, he marvels at the breakthrough of giving it two oppositely directed blades to counter the gyroscopic effect; a flexible pivot between the blades and the seat keeps the pilot ever-steady. ''The fact that there are two blades and that it doesn't need a tail rotor,'' he says, ''that was so not intuitive. There's a million bucks in this.''

I ask the inescapable question: if anyone can buy and fly one of these helicopters, isn't there the possibility of, well, grim and horrible chaos?

''Oh, not at all,'' he says. ''Look. There are hundreds of thousands of hang gliders in this country. Same with motorcycles. And you rarely even see one of 'em!''

The AirScooter's inception was typical of Norris's restless habit of simply walking away once an invention seems to have taken final shape. At A.T.C., once HyperSonic Sound was near completion, he started musing about the science of aviation. That was a frontier he'd never crossed, despite the hang-gliding scar that is lost in his well-creased forehead.

So he worked backward, as usual. ''It went like this: I've always wanted to fly, but I don't like going to the airport,'' he says, ticking off his logic, one pink finger at a time. ''I don't want to have to get a license. And I really don't want to go 100 m.p.h. So that set out the parameters right there. I consulted with Boeing engineers briefly, then raised $2 million in 20 minutes. My friends wanted in.''

Though HSS and the minicopter are making headway -- the full-size AirScooter will be available to the public by year's end, with a starting price of about $50,000 -- Norris is deeply involved in two new projects. He refuses to discuss these in any detail. His lab, in a rackety building near his house, smells of stingingly powerful glue and is cluttered with disparate apparatus: a gas chromatograph, transistor oscilloscopes, a one-million-Gauss magnet strong enough to tear fabric and human flesh alike. I ask if there's anything here that will betray Secret Things he's working on, but Norris has already disinfected the place of clues.

One project, he acknowledges, involves hydrogen and fuel cells. Of course, a man with secrets divulges first what he values least. It's Norris's way that, the more open he is with his first statement, the more he will clamp shut with his next. This is no exception.

The second project, he says, would make the rest of his career pale by comparison -- and he claims he has had early success. In all of this work, Norris has employed the tradecraft of his chosen profession to keep everything close to the vest. He buys his equipment at several machine shops so that no one can get an inkling of what he's doing. He hires separate scientists at separate universities to perform separate experiments -- and pays computer experts to train him to do the final, what he calls ''fourth-level,'' stage of analysis. ''I need to work that way,'' he says. ''It's like when two guys discover gold together. One kills the other.''

When I press him for a single word that would offer at least a vague idea of the Big Invention's category, he squints for a full minute and, seemingly in pain, whispers one out: matter. Then he searches my face for signs of recognition, half terrified that I'll guess what the technology is and half hoping I will. He is dying to say. It's his holy grail.

No one will ever know what makes inventors capable of staring at that which does not yet exist. Perhaps some form of hardship, in one's early years, is a factor. Edison went practically deaf as a boy; Alexander Graham Bell lost both his brothers to tuberculosis and was so sickly that his family moved to Canada in the hope of bracing him up. Then again, Benjamin Franklin and the Wright Brothers sauntered through childhood without a scratch. Woody Norris, in his formative years, was by no means unhealthy, but poverty left indelible marks. Maybe, in his case, that was a catalyst. Maybe mechanical figments were the cure when reality wasn't enough.

Lunch seems to offer Norris at his most philosophical. There's nothing like potato soup to remind you of the big picture. ''I'm very simple,'' he says, quite seriously. ''I have to be. I'm not very smart. I start broad, then go deep where I'm interested.''

Focus is Norris's real meat and drink -- but he will always go broad before going deep. He never finished college. He didn't want some university to foist a narrow course upon him. Instead, he veered all over the map, from physics to the philosophy of religion. ''I'm not even an engineer,'' he says, though he can only mean this in the most technical terms. ''I don't have a college degree; I hire guys with college degrees.''

Perhaps because ignorance has served him well (of the history of acoustics research, for example), he is protective of his limitations. He knows better than to swim in all the oceans. ''These guys, like Hawking, they look too far away,'' he says. ''They make it too complicated. Eleven dimensions, whatever. The answer is in front of your nose.''

Suddenly, it strikes Woody Norris that he has been speaking to a clear plastic straw for the past several seconds: pondering it, turning it around in his hands and in his head. ''This is so cool,'' he says, almost in awe. ''It's so cheap, so elegant. People throw these away! Someday this thing is gonna lead to a real invention.''

*end of article*

As advertisement becomes more and more abusive... (1)

savgreen (661115) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578750)

Maybe the mental environment, as technology is getting more and more advanced, is becoming something we have to actually take an active role in. Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak, and instead of just crazy black-masked anarchists smashing starbucks windows, we'll have soccer moms and white-collar workers taking baseball bats to asshole ad-machines. Imagine how YOU would feel, if some coke machine rained messages directly into your head every time a car or anything tripped the motion-sensor across the street. oh, to dream... ben

Seriously cool (5, Interesting)

SexyAlexie (217702) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578752)

I'm deaf myself, and I wonder if this thing could work a lot better than ordinary hearing aids.. would be seriously cool, and be much cheaper.

One question... (1)

renehollan (138013) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578759)

How do I get a job working for this guy?

...grin...

US soldiers captured! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578760)


Things are going bad in Iraq.
US soldiers have been captured by Iraqi forces.

Man, this is gonna help! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578761)

No problem getting chicks now. Just play "Look at that stud, isn't he sexy. You KNOW you want to sleep with him, badly. Don't wait. Take him now!"

Re:Man, this is gonna help! (0)

SexyAlexie (217702) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578783)

Take me now!

Elanor White is RIGHT! (1)

DivideByZero (80449) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578784)

Chalk another one up for Elanor White [raven1.net] and the schiz^D^D^D^D^D Veterans of the thousand psychic wars [raven1.net] .

Oh, Elanor, I KNEW you were right, but now I have proof! I'd better start some of your DIY projects [raven1.net] NOW! (search on "Diary #134" for her plans to make a cap to simulate EW weapons from common household items!)

Like Elanor says: "Skeptics: You must explain ALL occurrences taken together as a complete SET, or you have explained NONE of them." Go, Girl!

(/chuckle)

*Waves hands* (4, Funny)

baywulf (214371) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578788)

"These are not the droids you were looking for."

I don't know about you.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5578802)

But I expect them to really keep their 'projectors' and speakers really protected... Because I can tell you that i'll break or block them...

In the airport (1)

shatfield (199969) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578812)

I was recently travelling, and had a layover in Pittsburgh, PA. Waiting 2 hours for a plane to take off is the Pitts (pardon the pun ;-)), but what made it infinitely worse is that I was sitting next to the end of a conveyor belt. The airport had 3 alternating audio messages, stating that "You are nearing the end, please watch your step". These repeated constantly over and over again for 2 hours!

Luckily I had headphones (at least until my laptop ran out of battery.. ugh!).

Advertising use is abuse? (2, Insightful)

bobsledbob (315580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5578846)


I've read a couple of posts that suggest the reader would likely hunt out and smash the offending advertising emitter using this technology. I'd suggest that you'd even have the legal right to do so!

This technology creates the offending sound 'in your head'. Litteraly, the sound is created by the resonating waves heading your eardrum or bones in your ear. This is as close to abuse as you can get, imho. You can't turn away or tune it out.

It's one thing for an ad to sit there waiting to be looked at, or a background noise which are human brains are accustomed to tuning out. It's yet an entirely different thing to have sound resonating in your head which you cannot stop nor have really much sense of the emminating source.

Just think of the problems caused by billboards on the freeway... 'Um, excuse me, while your driving by at 60 mph, would you consider a nice refreshing .'
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