Acoustic Prism Invented - Breaking Sound Into Frequencies

I see this technology completely revolutionizing speaker systems for concerts and arenas...

The team over at the École Polytechnique Fédérale Dé Lausanne, a research facility in Lausanne, Switzerland, has invented what's being called an Acoustic Prism.

We all played with optical prisms in school growing up.  These were those transparent pyramidal triangles that refracted light, breaking it apart into it's constituent colors.  If you recall, we could shine white light through it and see a rainbow spreading out on the other side across your lab desk:

optical prism animated

This is exactly what the acoustic prism does but with sound!  It accepts a full white noise blast or any other sounds or songs and will separate the frequencies out physically so each band can be handled individually.

Take a look at this short video to get an idea of what it looks like and how it works (and check out that acoustic treatment on the walls!):

This is incredible.  What we're looking at is a horizontal series of ten, evenly aligned holes leading to a rectangular tube with air cavities.  A series of membranes are placed inside each hole to create the air cavities to compensate for time differences in indirect sound sources too.  That means it even compensates for the angle of sound delivery, moving us a lot closer to practical applications already.

What Are the Applications of the Acoustic Prism?

We honestly can't be sure of all the ways this will impact human life and the advancement of technology, but there is one obvious application and that's the angular detection of sound by measuring the frequencies.

In normal terms that means that we can locate the position of the source of a distant sound.  The coordinates could be determined by taking a measure of the amount of compensation created by the membranes.  That gives us information on not only the angle of the source based on the plane created by the tube, but also the distance since each frequency range will be affected in time by waving through the atmosphere.

I can imagine this will have some serious military usage implications.  If we don't hear anything else about it in the future it probably means it was sucked up into the classified and black budget programs.

acoustic prism

As far as speculating goes, I could see an algorithm being written to take this data and have the process reversed so that speakers could be designed to compensate for the position of the crowd or listener at a distance, such as at large concerts or sports stadiums, etc.  It's not very pragmatic though.  We already have better solutions to these problems like curved speaker arrays.

With enough information about the material a sound is traveling through, we could locate with precision the source of earthquakes and the like to then gain even more information.  I'm just throwing out ideas.

Do you guys have any ideas how this could play out in the future for our benefit?  Let us know on the social media channels using the buttons below!