One of the inventors of the MP3 format is back with a new technology that he hopes will revolutionize audio, creating superrealistic sound for theaters, theme parks and eventually even living rooms.
Karlheinz Brandenburg, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Media Technology, along with a team of co-developers, is in Los Angeles this week showing off his new “Iosono” technology to representatives of Hollywood studios and giants including Disney. Brandenburg is credited with much of the work leading to the MP3 format, also developed at Fraunhofer.
He and his team are touting their new product as true “three dimensional” audio, which can give the impression of, for example, a horse galloping through the center aisle of a movie theater, or pinpoint a noise so that it sounds exactly like a person shouting from outside theater walls. The best existing surround sound speakers can approximate this only for a small “sweet spot,” perhaps a few feet wide, while the Iosono system would create the same realistic illusion for everyone in the room.
“It was an old dream to do something like that…to do something for immersive audio, where people would feel they were in a different place,” Brandenburg said in an interview. “PCs have now become fast enough that you can do the (necessary) processing in real time. It was not realistic to do that 10 years ago.”
The project marks a substantial break from the way recorded sound has been replicated since Thomas Edison first began experimenting with recorded audio in the late 1870s. Just as video is being wholly transformed by digital cameras and computer processors, audio production and reproduction, too, is being transformed by the latest generation of PCs and processors.