ELECTRONIC VENTRILOQUISM IS ... THERE
In the worlds of virtual reality, nothing is what it was. Consider
your voice. You have been living with your voice all your life. You
think you know it. You speak and the sound comes from your larynx.
Almost everyone matches a face with a voice. Sometimes the visuallyimpaired and radio personalities create an imaginary persona. Almost
always, the imagined is different from the reality. The change may
When I speak, the voice you hear may not come from my lips but from
the back of the auditorium, from inside the ceiling, the walls, the
floor or from inside a drum!
Welcome to the unreal world of acoustical virtual reality.
Electronic ventriloquism ... is there. Because of the minimum amount
of equipment now necessary to create such cyberspace magic and the
accompanying lower cost of sound equipment, this may be the first VR
to hit the marketplace before the totally-encompassing world of full
VR comes to Main Street. As with radio drama in the past, with Focal
Point acoustic's the effect is evocative allowing the user to create
their own visual images from their own fantasies.
As the "Marco Polo of VR" (another writer's words, not mine), I have
been travelling through new cyberspaces during recent months. Earlier
columns described the Parallel Universe in Calgary, Canada (where
golfers -- or even duffers like me can play a course before it's
built, or inspect a building before the first concrete is poured),
and the Human Interface Technology Lab in Seattle (where VR
adventurers can fly around the Space Needle without leaving the
ground or dive into the sea without getting wet). I've even played
on the very first virtual reality video game to arrive in North
America. They was created by "W" Industries of Great Britain. I
played at the sophisticated video arcade called "Quarters" in
Kirkland, Washington. It is games like these that will be introducing
all of us into the 21st century.
A young man named Bo Gehring, from Toronto via Los Angeles (where he
created some of the stunning computer-generated graphics used in
Arthur C. Clarke's movie 2010), is the creator of this startling new
sound system. I recently visited his Toronto studio: "The Focal
Point 3D Audio system takes any sound and processes it to generate
signals for each ear. It's a cursor for the sound," he explained.
"It's the same sound as before, but built into it is new information
to make the brain think it's coming from a new direction".
Just as a computer cursor can be moved around, by keying in commands
with a mouse or a Voice Navigator, Focal Point lets the performer, or
whoever is directing the production, move sound around, over, under,
in front of, inside or behind an audience. You have to experience it
to believe it.
You are hooked. You have entered the cyberdelic playhouse. Imagine
a sultry singer crooning a seductive ballad. He (or she) looks, then
points directly at your head. The sound, both to the person selected
as well as to the rest of the audience, comes from inside your head!
Or a hip-throbbing dancer tosses their body in multiple directions.
The sound bounces off the nearest wall in direct line with hip movements.
And, that's just the kindergarten class.
Ever since living with the voodooists in Haiti for two years trying
to understand some of their "magic", I have been intrigued by their
uncanny ability to use sound to make anyone in an audience react in
ways beyond their control. The voodooists can actually cause a
spectator to experience orgasm, with the powerful, hypnotic and
physically manipulative sound from their drums.
One saying from the Industrial Age is that "Information is Power".
Today that belief is widely accepted. Now, it becomes power in a
new dimension: the ability to move sound so it appears to emanate
from wherever the performer desires. Ventriloquists will be appearing
on welfare rolls. For others, who learn how to dance with these
acoustical electrons, a much brighter future is about to unfold.
Bo Gehring is one of many new Thomas Edisons who will emerge publicly
in the next decade creating worlds never previously experienced.
Recently in Toronto while I was speaking to the Motorola World
Convention. Bo Gehring and I introduced acoustic virtual reality to
an audience of 1,000 sophisticated, cutting-edge individuals. They
were particularly impressed as it was all made possible by the use of
a Motorola 56001 microchip inside Bo Gehring's patented "white box"!
One chip now allows man to create worlds of sound in a manner never
even conceived previously.
My voice, spoken in total darkness, appeared to originate from a
dozen different locations. When the lights were turned up, the
audience could see my power glove-encased hand directing the sound by
merely pointing my finger in the desired direction.
A week later at the convention of MTA Financial Consultants, a group
of sophisticated banking investment advisors, (again with inventor Bo
Gehring on hand) I "flew" a helicopter (sound only) through a ballroom and fired two "on-board rockets". It certainly got their
attention. I could have fired more than rockets.
This innovation has the potential to turn any home entertainment room
with stereo speakers into a "virtual" stadium. Get in on this
development while it's still in the excavation stage. It will be
Bo Gehring, President,
189 Madison Ave.,
Toronto, Ont. M5R 2S6.
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