Final Project – Housefly

by craig @ 10:51 pm 13 May 2012

A highly directional “sonic spotlight” on a pan-tilt mount creates the auditory hallucination of a housefly — a housefly that doesn’t exist.

Lucille Ball, star of the 50s television sitcom I Love Lucy, once reported a peculiar turn of events related to a set of dental fillings she had received. “One night,” told Lucille, “I came into the Valley over Coldwater Canyon, and I heard music. I reached down to turn the radio off, and it wasn’t on. The music kept on getting louder and louder, and then I realized it was coming from my mouth. I even recognized the tune. My mouth was humming and thumping with the drumbeat, and I thought I was losing my mind.” Ball claimed that this phenomenon was the result of the fillings acting as a radio receiver, resonating radio stations into her jaw.

This work utilizes a highly directional ultrasonic speaker and a pan-tilt system to create sonic experiences that cause the participant to question the objectivity of their perception.

Initially I intended to replicate Lucille Ball’s hallucinations, using an ultrasonic speaker and a camera tracking system. However, once I began experimenting with the ultrasonic speaker, it became apparent that a constant tone produces a more realistic sound. A housefly’s tone was the perfect sound to use. Using a pan-tilt mechanism I was able to mimic a housefly’s movement throughout a room. I used the PureData audio processing toolkit to synthesize the housefly’s sound, whose pitch increases and decreases in relation to the acceleration of the fly’s movement. This movement is in turn derived from a real-time Perlin-noise animation developed in Processing. Finally, an Arduino controls the servos which regulate the pan-tilt rig, directing the fly’s sound around the room.

Jump to 0:28″ to get a view of the device that’s making this pesky racket, or see the image below.


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