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Sept. 17, 2001

Victoria Kushnir

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

(Phone: 650/604-0176 or 604-9000)





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.



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