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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S001832/1
Title: AURORA: Controlling sound like we do with light
Principal Investigator: Memoli, Dr G
Other Investigators:
Obrist, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
4GROUNDmedia Limited Drawtoperform Environmental Resource Management Ltd
Knowledge Transfer Network Ltd LCE Architects Ltd Outshift
Wired Sussex
Department: Sch of Engineering and Informatics
Organisation: University of Sussex
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship - NHFP
Starts: 29 June 2018 Ends: 28 December 2021 Value (£): 622,522
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Music & Acoustic Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Creative Industries R&D
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 May 2018 EPSRC UKRI CL Innovation Fellowship Interview Panel 3 - 8 and 9 May 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Current sound design does not have a spatial component: architects design buildings or public spaces so that the same sound is either everywhere or nowhere. We count on headphones for getting personal, high quality soundscapes, even in augmented/virtual/mixed reality applications.

Our society, however, manages light differently: a theatre director can populate a scene with focused or diffused light, a spotlight that follows a character, alternation of light and shadows. This is possible because centuries of optical science have given us tools that can shape light beams: we call the simplest lenses, but these can be assembled to form telescopes, microscopes etc. Adding a 3D holographic image of a crown on a £5 note is now as easy as getting good fish and chips in Brighton.

The difference between sound and light design is even more apparent in television/computer displays: we use special materials (liquid crystals) to compose lights of different nature, shaping them in what we perceive as 3D landscapes, even one for each observer. Conversely, there is no such a thing as a 3D display for acoustics, and this is probably the main reason why immersive experiences and videogames are mainly designed for visual feedback. Medical and industrial applications, which are based on transducer arrays, often require costly and bulky electronics and are difficult to scale up. Designers simply don't have the right tools.

In this fellowship, I will exploit my research on meta-materials (i.e., materials designed and engineered to have acoustic properties not present in nature) to create these tools. If my research is successful, at the end of the 3 years we will have very thin DIY acoustic lenses that can be assembled in acoustic "telescopes" and "microscope" objectives, but also speakers that deliver personalised messages to passing users (like in the movie "Minority Report"). We will have windows that let the air through, but not the noise of the air-conditioning unit. We will have a new type of VR/AR environments, incorporating localised music and long-range haptics (like in "Iron Man"), available to the UK creative industries for early adoption. We will have diagnostic and therapeutic applications based on ultrasound with a simple 3D printer.

To achieve this result, I will partner with selected industrial stakeholders (in UK and abroad), through workshops and short feasibility studies, to explore what lies beyond our everyday acoustics and how this can be applied to the benefit of UK companies. I will even build devices that have no optical counterpart, but that can manipulate sound with a precision beyond our perception. And you will able to see them in action, because I will be active in public engagement to facilitate their uptake.

At the end of the three years, we will have a new way of designing, thinking and experience sound. We will have on sound the same control we now have on light.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.sussex.ac.uk