Home Research & Education 3D printing Transforms Acoustics Research: Affordable and Realistic Head Simulators

3D printing Transforms Acoustics Research: Affordable and Realistic Head Simulators

Acoustics researchers face the challenge of simulating spatial audio for group conversations in order to develop accurate algorithms for localizing sound sources. The solution may lie in applying 3D printing technology to produce low-cost and realistic head simulators.

Acoustic head simulators provide a solution for generating such data sets. They have similar absorption and structural properties as a human head. Unlike real people, they can be used 24/7 in the lab and perform precise, repeatable movements.

However, research simulators are often expensive because expensive materials and actuators are used. As a result, few labs have access to multiple head simulators, which is necessary for simulating group conversations.

The application of 3D printing technology to the fabrication of head simulators is being explored. 3D printing is ideally suited for the complex geometry of the human ears and head, both of which have significant influence on interaural levels and delay.

In addition, a multi-axis turret is being designed to which the head can snap to allow movement of each head. This will allow the simulators to nod and rotate to mimic natural gestures. Researchers can use this feature to evaluate the robustness and responsiveness of their algorithms to spatial perturbations.

The development of a 3D-printable, powered head simulator should make it possible to produce many such devices for their own research at low cost.

Find out more about University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign at illinois.edu.

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