New and Old Acoustic Telescopes

Have you ever heard of an acoustic telescope? Many devices to amplify and focus sound exist and have been tested experimentally over the years.


In a recent invention, a sound scope technology was described as being able to “zoom in” as optical telescopes do with light.

Researchers at the universities of Sussex and Bristol have unveiled how the practical laws used to design  can also be applied to sound through  at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. …

The technology takes everyday materials like glass, wood and 3-D printer plastic and engineers them to control, direct, and manipulate waves in uncommon ways, transforming metasurfaces into behaving like converging lenses for sound.

… the technology has the capability of zooming in to a single person in a crowd to either deliver or receive acoustic messages.

The academics also believe that the technology can help bringing truly 360 degree sound coverage ensuring that every member of an audience has the optimal listening experience.

Read more PhysOrg

Because the system can both send and receive, movie sound could get even better at delivering very realistic 3D soundscapes beyond the best current “surround sound” in theaters.

Here’s a very different and somewhat strange acoustic telescope:

A big acoustic telescope for listening to the sea was under development last year according to one WHOI. The purpose was for listening to rainfall, whales near and far, ships, volcanoes, earthquakes, breaking waves and more.

A key feature of the acoustic telescope will be its ability to steer and focus its listening pathways to pinpoint different sound sources simultaneously, giving researchers unparalleled access to the soundscape of the deep ocean environment, including both natural and human-made noise. 

August 28, 2018

A first-of-its-kind acoustic telescope is under development at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), funded by a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, that will permit researchers to map and study the underwater soundscape.

Seawater quickly absorbs or scatters light, radio waves, and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, making conventional telescopes useless beneath the ocean surface. However, sound travels great distances through the water and many marine animals have evolved to use sound to communicate, find food, and navigate underwater. Scientists, too, have learned that they can use sound to observe and probe the depths.

Read more WHOI

Acoustic telescopes were popular (before radar got better) to detect incoming airplanes during wars. Look at this amazing contraption:

The most fun use of acoustic telescopes to me would be to make better acoustic telephones. Imagine an entire town set up with swiveling parabolic dishes that move around based on who wants to speak to whom. Could it be done with the right relays to create a power free telephone system?

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