You’re filming a sports game. An argument breaks out between players, and you zoom in to get a closeup of the action. The crowd goes wild, shouting and booing. Now, you zoom the audio in to hear what the players are saying to each other, despite the din. Impossible? Not with Squarehead’s Audioscope.
Squarehead’s new system is like bullet-time for sound. 325 microphones sit in a carbon-fiber disk above the stadium, and a wide-angle camera looks down on the scene from the center of this disk. All the operator has to do is pinpoint a spot on the court or field using the screen, and the Audioscope works out how far that spot is from each of the mics, corrects for delay and then synchronizes the audio from all 315 of them. The result is a microphone that can pick out the pop of a bubblegum bubble in the middle of a basketball game.
The Audioscope is the invention of two Norwegian physicists Morgan Kjølerbakken and Vibeke Jahr. Speaking to New Scientist, Kjølerbakken says that “If we correct the audio arriving at three microphones then we have a signal that is three times as strong. Doing the same thing with 300 microphones can make a single conversation audible even in a stadium full of sports fan.”
Audio from all microphones is stored in separate channels, so you can even go back and listen in on any sounds later. Want to hear the whispered insult that caused one player to lose it and attack the other? You got it.
Catching taunts from foul-mouthed players is one application, but Audioscope could be used for more sinister purposes, too. Deployed at public gatherings, the super-mics could be zoomed in to eavesdrop on conversations between suspicious persons, or pretty much anyone the cops want to listen in on. Are you scared yet..?
(no more talking in public - fc)