Aug. 25, 2004 -- Coming soon to a convention near you: Sound like it has never (or at least, rarely) been heard before.
As politicians at the Republican National Convention use microphones to make themselves heard from the podium, other sounds in and around the event will be emitted in cutting-edge audio technology.
Outside the convention hall, New York City police plan to control protesters using a device that directs sound for up to 1,500 feet in a spotlight-like beam. Meanwhile, a display of former Republican presidents inside the hall will feature campaign speeches that are funneled to listeners through highly focused audio beams.
"These are totally different from the way an ordinary speaker emits sound," said Elwood (Woody) Norris, founder and head of American Technology Corp. of San Diego. "It's like it's inside your head."
Norris, an intrepid entrepreneur who has no college degree but more than 43 patents to his name, invented both the crowd control tool, called the Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD), and the display audio technology, called HyperSonic Sound (HSS).
Both technologies feature unprecedented manipulation of sound, but for very different purposes. And while both technologies have unique, "gee-whiz" factors, some remain uneasy with the idea of using sound to control crowds.
"It produces sound in a way that for most people will be a novel experience, so I think it has potential to create confusion and panic," said Richard Glen Boire, founder of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics in Davis, Calif. "It can't be identified, it's an invisible force."
Sound as a Weapon
In fact, LRAD, which is 33 inches in diameter and looks like a giant spotlight, has been used by the U.S. military in Iraq and at sea as a non-lethal force. In these settings, operators can use the device not only to convey orders, but also as a weapon.