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In 2003, Popular Science's "Best of What's New" Grand Award went to Woody Norris and his American Technology Corporation for HyperSonic Sound, a device that streams sound "in a precise, laser-like beam for up to 150 yards with almost no degradation in quality or volume."
Here's how the magazine described the experience:
"When I met Norris in September he pointed the 7-inch-square emitter at me from 30 feet away. Suddenly I heard the sound of birds chirping. The noise didn't seem to emanate from his device; I felt like it was generated inside my noggin. Yet a guy just 2 feet away from me couldn't hear it."
"The applications are numerous, if not apparent: Thousands of soda machines in Tokyo will soon bombard passersby with the enticing sound of a Coke being poured, and several U.S. supermarkets will promote products to shoppers as they walk down corresponding aisles."
The device costs around $600. I have a feeling that this is so powerful that eventually it's use will have to be restricted.
Here are a few articles back from 2003:
--"HyperSonic Sound as a Weapon" (originally by NY Times): Certain noises, projected at the right pitch, can incapacitate even a stone-deaf terrorist; the bones in your head are
brutalized by a tone's full effect whether you're clutching the sides of
your skull in agony or not.
--"[Norris] has sent out HSS units for testing at Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Sony has signed up to distribute the units in Europe. Gateway is considering including the technology in its line of televisions. And General Dynamics is installing them in the public address systems of U.S. Navy ships." (Forbes)
"The Audio Spotlight sound system, developed and manufactured by Holosonics, is currently used around the world for museums, tradeshows, retail displays, exhibitions, and special effects, and will soon be available for consumer applications. Companies such as Motorola, Time-Warner, DaimlerChrysler, Kraft Foods, Sega, and American Greetings have chosen the Audio Spotlight, and Audio Spotlight systems have been installed in venues such as Boston's Museum of Science, the Matisse Museum, Sega's Joypolis, Bibliotheque National de France, Boston Center for the Arts, the European PGA tour, and the Chicago Cultural Center."
Keywords: advertising, point of sales, point of purchase, POP, interactive, sound