Press Release

NASA technology to help commercial ventures “listen up” — and down

By SpaceRef Editor
September 17, 2001
Filed under , ,

A 3-D audio processor developed for space shuttle mission controllers will
soon find its way into virtual classrooms across the country.

BreakAway Sound, an African American-owned and-operated business based in
Los Angeles, has received a license for further development and marketing
of the Ames Spatial Auditory Display (ASAD) communication tool. NASA’s Far
West Regional Technology Transfer Center, located within the School of
Engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles,
identified BreakAway Sound as an excellent candidate to commercialize the
technology.

“The NASA flight director at mission control in Houston is sometimes
required to listen to and understand as many as seven different voices at
the same time,” said Dr. Durand R. Begault of NASA’s Ames Research Center,
in California’s Silicon Valley. Begault originally developed the processor
to improve communication intelligibility for space shuttle mission control
operators. “Traditional communication systems involve listening to multiple
voices with only one ear, which is disadvantageous for speech
intelligibility,” he added.

The revolutionary Ames technology makes radio communications more easily
understood by taking advantage of people’s natural ability to localize
sounds. “Our everyday ability to listen to one desired voice out of a
collection of different voices is known as the ‘cocktail party effect,’
which depends on two-ear listening to separate the sounds in space,”
explained Begault. “The ASAD simulates this by effecting directional cues
for each input based on time and level differences at the ears.”

ASAD’s unique design provides highly adaptable, immersion sound technology
for applications in physical and virtual computer realms, virtual game and
multimedia technology, consumer electronics, aeronautic, submarine and
emergency rescue technologies.

BreakAway Internetworking Group, the parent company of BreakAway Sound, has
established 215 community technology centers around the world. The company
now is linking the key centers together via the Internet to deliver
e-training, i-galleries, i-books, i-radio and i-TV as ways for multimedia
students and participants to share their work.

“We understand that more realistic 3-D immersive sound will enhance the
on-line audio experience,” said Maisha Hazzard, president and CEO of
BreakAway Sound. “ASAD allows the quality of the audio to finally match the
advances in 3-D video.”

By the year 2003, it is anticipated that ASAD may be ready for application
in air traffic control, emergency communication, virtual conferencing,
distance education, virtual classrooms and entertainment industry
environments.

“NASA has superb innovative capabilities, but transferring our technology
to the right strategic partner is a challenge,” noted David Lackner, Ames’
technology commercialization manager. “In BreakAway, we have a firm that is
in a prime position to take NASA R&D to market.”

“This is a great example of NASA’s ability to work with private industry to
commercialize dual-use technology. I look forward to creating more
partnerships like this one, where we achieve tangible benefits in
cooperation with dynamic entrepreneurs,” Lackner added.

SpaceRef staff editor.