Oct. 14, 2014 | By Alec

Anyone who ever checks out this site will know that the potential of 3D printing technology is only limited by your own creativity. But did you know that 3D printing could even capture sounds from all over the world?

Want to briefly relive that exciting city trip to New York? Or just looking to get away for a few minutes to clear your head? Then you should definitely check out the Sound City project, using 3D printing technology to let everyone experience a taste of several major cities around the world, including Oslo, Florence, San Francisco, Bergen and Stockholm. While this project is still ongoing, suggesting that many more locations will soon be added, the results are already spectacular.

Their website will quickly spirit you away to one of these locations using overwhelmingly realistic noises and beautifully designed images. Moving through the included locations and imagery will allow you to experience the streets and peoples of these cities as if you were actually there. And it doesn't cost you a cent, provided you have a pair of headphones.

This project was devised by sound designers and creative developers David Vale, Rick van Mook and Caco Teixera, who wanted to share the sounds of the world with everyone. And as they explained, modern technology now allows us to be everywhere:

The world is full of different people, cultures and cities. Thanks to today's technology, we have access to a great amount of information about the most remote places—right in our pocket. We can use tools to explore any street, see its surroundings, but what about the feeling? What does that small village in Norway feel like? The Sound City Project is one step closer to bringing you that feeling. By using a combination of a panoramic view with high quality 3D sound recorded using a custom "soundhead" prototype, you can select places on a map and give yourself a better idea of what it's like to actually be there.

While this all sounds very impressive and artistic, the Sound City project is actually a sophisticated combination of 3D printing and the latest audio technologies. For the mastermind behind this project, David Vale, certainly isn't going around with his phone's voice recorder. Instead, they've spent the past few months developing a 3D printed audio recorder that slightly resembles a drone made of ears.

As can be seen in the image above, this creation consists of four ears pointing in every direction. Working together, they have been designed to capture noise in a 360-degree angle as realistically as possible; as if you are actually standing there with your own ears. This allows you to view an image of a street in New York or Stockholm and, provided your own audio equipment isn't terrible, you can experience true-to-life audio.

To achieve this, this three of designers have gone through numerous prototypes – initially made from Styrofoam – and a load of expensive recording equipment before ending with this sleek looking audio drone called 'soundhead'.


And if anything, this project's progress highlights the prototyping potential of 3D printing. The numerous pictures detailing their progress reveal a wide range of 3D printed components, though they hardly talk about specifics. These various prototyping parts were partly made at home on an unnamed FDM printer. The sleek Soundhead result, however, was printed using Shapeways printing service.

The Soundhead itself is roughly the size of a human head, and that is no coincidence. Indeed, their whole purpose was to build a prototype that somewhat follows the anatomy of a human head. This will allow them to capture and experience the audio recordings as realistically as possible. As Vale told fastcolabs, 'That meant respecting the distance between the ears to make the head related transfer function (HRTF) possible. It's not a perfect model because it still lacks some details like the ear canal, but that would create the need of extra post-production of the sound files.'

While it's unfortunate that they haven't yet revealed more their 3D printing phases, this hardly diminishes the coolness factor of this project. Using their uniquely-shaped 3D printed audio recorders, they have become capable of sharing a truly realistic sound.


Posted in 3D Printers

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