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Dec 31

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

More on the Virtual Reality Audio Headset

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry entitled The Future of Cell Phone Headsets. David Battino wrote a few days to let me know that Peter Drescher, the author of the article that sparked that entry, just published a follow-up article describing the potential hardware in his imagined virtual reality headset in more detail. He includes more application scenarios as well. For example David pointed out this one:

Rewind:Since you've got stereo mic input and gigabytes of storage, how about a rolling 5 minute (or 5 hour) audio buffer ... a continuous "court stenographer" that lets you play back anything you've ever heard. Someone tells you a great joke -- voice command "Save buffer" stores it in a date, time, and geo-tagged file for later retrieval (and sharing).

That's an important feature of Gordon Bell's mylifebits envisioned not as a research project but as an everyday feature of the phone. That would create some significant cultural change, eh? That's a feature I always wished for in my younger days, when my wife and I used to fight a lot, and we'd spend hours untangling who said what to set the other off!

Drescher goes on:

Personal Audio Network technology seems to be so mind-bogglingly useful, i suspect the technical and cultural problems will be resolved quickly, ingeniously, and profitably. there will always be old farts who grumble about "the good old days (when you couldn't hear nothin' but the wind)," but those who adopt this new medium (kids and uber-geeks at first) will seem to acquire super-sonic super-powers. they'll be able to hear more and better than mere mortals, communicate faster and more efficiently than their auricularly-unenhanced colleagues, and be interconnected in ways we can't even imagine.

eventually, not wearing earpods will be like not having a phone or a computer - you won't be able to do business without them. you'll simply control your audio environment as if you were in a mobile recording studio, enhancing one track while muting others, mixing and modulating sounds to suit your needs, talking and listening and interacting with wireless voice/data networks all around you.

Most exciting, Drescher notes:

well, this idea has obvious implications for mobile game audio, and so I talked about it at Austin GDC. Not long after that, i expanded on the concept for a presentation at AES NYC ... and was amazed by the number of conference attendees who were already working on parts of the idea.

This is the way the future happens. A bunch of people are working on something, for one purpose or another. Some hacker figures out it's good for more than that. Slowly the pieces assemble, like a picture puzzle taking shape on the table, till you can see the pattern of a possible future unfold. Someone puts in the final piece, and all of a sudden everyone can see that future and embrace it. Awesome.

This is really important news from the future Drescher is talking about. Pay attention.

tags: audio, headsets, mobile, mylifebits  | comments: 5   | Sphere It


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Ross Stapleton-Gray   [12.31.07 10:11 AM]

Tim said, "That's a feature I always wished for in my younger days, when my wife and I used to fight a lot, and we'd spend hours untangling who said what to set the other off!"

Now, in your older days, what do you think? There's a certain value to "constructive decay"... we can "agree to disagree" on things which we can't reconstruct with full fidelity. It might have been, in fact, that you two wouldn't have gotten this far if you'd had several digital lawyers backing each of you up during those formative years...

OTOH, I've long thought that it'd be a very nice hack to create a digital buffer that could be inserted into my car's audio system, so that I could just hit a button and get a playback of the last 10-20 seconds of the radio... "What do I think I just heard? A 20-car pile-up where??"

Julian Bond   [01.01.08 03:01 AM]

Just audio? How about video as well. The one I'm really looking forward to is Augmented Reality rather than Virtual Reality. Think head up display GPS with the ability to leave notes that other people can read. Most of the pieces of the puzzle are now here. The one thing we still need is unobtrusive head up displays that allow you to see the outside world as well.

Tim O'Reilly   [01.01.08 11:43 AM]

Julian --

You're right that augmented reality is the right term, not virtual reality. As to why not video...

The reason this article was so interesting to me is that it highlights the way that augmented reality is most likely to enter the mainstream. And that is via audio, not video. Sure, heads up video display would be really cool, but that's still mostly science-fiction, or real geek-land today, while we're already a fair distance down the way to having lots of people wearing audio headsets all the time, and connected to a device that is increasingly powerful.

rektide   [01.02.08 02:13 PM]

dont "imagine" a buffering audio system, go download it.

time machine.

i use it for nabbing sound bytes off anything i'm playing. there are some problems, namely that it doesnt capture any metadata on what it just captured, aside from a timestamp.

similarly the audio network idea is already up and running. pulse audio has DNS-SD (sometimes called mDNS for reasons i cannot fathom) such that you get a list of all streams on the network. from there, you can mix and mux streams as you like and listen in on whatever you want. further, pulse has a pretty accurate time sync mechanism. it aint no 1588 but its within acceptable listening parameters for having multiple machines all playing the same stream, unlike every other attempt i have ever listened to.

the conversation proposal seems inline with the above, except full duplex.

Tom Finnigan   [01.02.08 07:08 PM]

My mom had a habit of telling us to do one thing, and then asking us later why we didn't do what she asked us to.

My older brother actually tried resolving an argument with my mom by using a mini tape recorder.

Didn't go over so well.

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