Squarehead Technology AudioScope can zoom sound in a crowd
Physicists Morgan Kjølerbakken and Vibeke Jahr were working on sonar technology when they came up with the idea for what they call a super-microphone while they were at the University of Oslo, Norway. Kjølerbakken and Jahr have now patented the device, dubbed it AudioScope, and founded a company Squarehead Technology where they commercialized their idea. AudioScope can “zoom in” and capture sound from any chosen sound source.
AudioScope is based on the same principle as sonar. A dish with an array of microphones can locate and record sound anywhere in a large room. A speaker’s voice in an auditorium is picked up by all the microphones on the dish. Depending on the position of each microphone, the sound will reach them at a slightly different time. To compensate for this deviation, the developers added delays to the microphones. The delay synchronizes the audio received from all of the microphones at the same time. This technique is called beam-forming, and when this technique is applied to hundreds of microphones the result is a tremendous signal boost.
Currently, the system comes in 3 variations with different performance, components and uses. The most complex version is meant for Broadcast and it’s capable to store digital audio from 315 separate microphones in synchronization with the images. Its AudioScope Dish has lightweight carbon fiber housing, a wide angle camera and 315 microphones arranged in a super-directive array. The operator can go back and zoom in on interesting areas and select replays with amplified sound. The system is designed for sports and live entertainment productions and is easy to integrate with your current production equipment.
The AudioScope Control Station is where the operator controls the AudioScope System. The operator monitors the picture on a screen and simply moves the cursor to any audio source. The trackball is used to follow moving objects and the jog wheel is used to rewind the tape for replays. The system supports multiple output channels and the operator can select up to five audio sources simultaneously.
The AudioScope Connection Unit controls the communication between one Audioscope Dish and up to three AudioScope Control Stations. One Connection Unit can also be connected to as much as five EVS units and receive time codes to synchronize replays.
The Conference version of AudioScope is equipped with 285 omnidirectional microphones which are able to overcome the challenge during a video conference to be able to receive high quality audio from all of the participants (a problem escalates if the number of participants increases or the room gets larger). The system registers every speaker and captures all the sound. You can make the system track specific sections of the room or select which areas you do not want the system to track (like areas around a door or a loudspeaker).
The dish is fitted with a wide-angle camera. The output is displayed on a responsive touch screen, which provides industry-leading brightness, and the speaker can be highlighted with just a tap on the screen. The Video Conference version is equipped with 225 microphones and offers similar capabilities with a slighter worse performance.
So, whether you’re an athlete, a fan, or a visitor at a conference, you might need to watch out what you are saying because AudioScope can focus on you. We envision this system could be used in future audio recordings of music live performances where sound mixing could be brought to the new level and offer new experience to listeners and a lot more control to sound engineers.