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Researchers use 3D printed heads to gather data on how we process sound


Acoustic signal processing researchers have developed a new technique for more accurately understanding how we process sound, all while reducing costs. Modern acoustic head simulators are quite costly, and while they can be a big help for gathering data on how our ears process audio from a singular source, they are less helpful when studying scenarios where there are multiple sound sources overlapping, such as a crowded room.

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“Simulating realistic scenarios for conversation enhancement often requires hours of recording with human subjects,” said Austin Lu, a member of a research team at the Augmented Listening Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “The entire process can be exhausting for the subjects, and it is extremely hard for a subject to remain perfectly still in between and during recordings, which affects the measured acoustic pressures.”

The research team has come up with a new method that solves this issue, utilizing 3D printing to create human heads  with detailed ears that carry microphones. Within each mouth is a small speaker, and the heads are mounted on swivels to allow them to pivot like the human neck. Using these new research devices, the team will gather data that, once processed, should allow for advances in the audio processing research field. The team is hopeful that these advancements will allow future data to be gathered more efficiently, and at a lower cost.

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