A team of researchers have created a cheap way to make acoustic-head simulators. They can help measure the way we take in and process sound – especially in noisy environments like cocktail parties.
Researchers in acoustic signals processing need to understand how the brain and ears process and absorb sound.
There are devices which can be used to help. These devices, called acoustic heads simulators, tend to cost a lot of money, so a lab is unlikely have more than one. This is useful for gathering data but does not help scientists understand how the sound is processed when many people are talking at once. For example, at a sports event or party. Human subjects have been used in experiments conducted in noisy rooms, but the research has its own problems.
Austin Lu is a member of a team of researchers from the Augmented Listening Laboratory of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “Simulating real scenarios for conversation improvement often requires hours of recordings with human subjects,” he said. “The entire process can be exhausting for the subjects, and it is extremely hard for a subject to remain perfectly still in between and during recordings, which affects the measured acoustic pressures.”
The team created a series of acoustic heads simulators using 3D printing to solve both problems. The team then mounted these heads on swivels in order to simulate the human neck. All of the heads are equipped with speakers to imitate speech and detailed ears that have microphones.
The researchers hope that by having the heads “talking,” listening,” swiveling and nodding and then running these results through a number of algorithms, they will be able gather a huge amount of acoustic information quickly and affordably. The data collected should help improve algorithms that will, in turn lead to improved acoustic products.
The research will also be presented during the 184th Meeting of Acoustical Society of America currently taking place in Chicago, Illinois.
Sources : University of Illinois and the Acoustical Society of America, via EurekAlert