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San Jose Sharks Shake Your Booty

System detects hockey players crashing into ice rink and sends vibrations to your couch

2 min read
San Jose Sharks Shake Your Booty
Tyler Kennedy (#81) of the San Jose Sharks makes a hit against Josh Jooris (#86) of the Calgary Flames in a game last month.
Photo: Don Smith/NHLI/Getty Images

Would you spend US $300 to feel—instead of just see—the impact of hockey players hitting the boards? Comcast Sportsnet California, the San Jose Sharks hockey team, and the Guitammer Company are betting at least some rabid hockey fans will. They’ve wired up the SAP Center, the home ice of the San Jose Sharks, to detect the vibrations of hockey players crashing into the boards.

Here’s how it works. At the arena, 76 sensors attached to the panels that ring the rink detect the vibrations of players crashing into them; Guitammer’s “4D Sports” system converts those vibrations into a signal that a technician monitors and makes sure is mixed properly into the TV coverage of the game. (A process that they say will eventually be made automatic; this is admittedly an early version of the technology.) The vibration information goes out to viewers as part of the standard television feed. To feel the impact of the hits at home, TV viewers will need to purchase the $300 ButtKicker (I kid you not), a gadget that attaches to a chair or couch and uses low-frequency audio signals (the company calls it a silent sub-woofer) to shake the furniture in perfect synchrony to the on-screen action.

The gadget was originally developed to bump up the bass effect without cranking up the volume for people listening to music, watching movies, or playing videogames. (The company’s name, Guitammer, is a mashup of “guitar” and “hammer”.)

The technology debuted with the broadcast of the Sharks-Florida Panthers game on November 20. Said San Jose Sharks COO, John Tortora, in a press release, “The Sharks are pleased to be the first NHL team to test Guitammer’s 4D technology. We think this will be an exciting an unique way for our fans to enjoy Sharks hockey from the comfort of their homes.” Because everybody needs a kick in the butt once in a while.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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