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Virtual Sounds

July 13, 2009

New computer programs generate real-time, accurate sounds for virtual-reality events.


Instant virtual sounds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Sound of a faucet running]
Canned sound effects, like this running faucet, work great in movies and radio. But creating accurate sounds in virtual reality is another story. Cornell University computer scientist Doug James explains that truly interactive environments are unpredictable – meaning, for example, that the water flow could range from a drip to full blast, or empty into all sorts of different containers.

DOUG JAMES (Cornell University):
If you have to record a sound for every possible single event and scenario, you quickly end up with this explosion of all the different sound files you need.

Instead, James and his colleagues are writing computer algorithms that can generate just the right sound for any scenario, based on the laws of physics. Their first simulations of water take hours of computing time, but the ultimate goal is to make them instantaneous. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.