Sound City Project uses sights and 3D sound to recreate the "feel" of a city

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3D sound and 360 degree panoramic images help visitors get a real feel for a city

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If you’ve ever wanted to experience the sights and sounds of cities like New York, San Francisco, Stockholm or Oslo without leaving home, take a look at the Sound City Project, an immersive audiovisual experience combining 3D sounds and panoramic views of popular and iconic world locations.

High-quality recordings of representative sounds for each location are paired with evocative 360-degree black and white images of places like Broadway and Union Square in New York, Golden Gate Bridge and the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, and The Old Town and Sergel Square in Stockholm. Created by David Vale in collaboration with Rick van Mook and Caco Teixeira, the Sound City Project also visits the smaller cities of Bergen and Flam in Norway.

Select a point of interest via the city maps or website navigation and you can easily imagine you’re standing on a street corner soaking up the city's sights and sounds.

Three-dimensional sound is the key to the project’s realism and is best experienced with headphones. Look north, and you hear the west microphone in your left ear and the east microphone in your right ear. If you’re looking west, you hear the south microphone in your left ear and the north microphone in your right ear. To create the 3D sound they wanted, the team prototyped a series of 3D printed "soundheads" with two pairs of microphone "ears" at 90-degree angles.

The soundhead is based on the human head and takes into account the distance between the ears, allowing for head related transfer function (HRTF) – a response that characterizes how an ear receives a sound from a point in space.

City sounds were recorded on four Countryman omnidirectional microphones connected to a Zoom H6 recorder, with the audio from all microphones merged into one 4-channel audio file. Not surprisingly, the final audio files were large (up to 9 MB). To avoid visitors having to look at preloaders, the audio is chopped up into five parts and individually loaded then stitched together again to provide seamless audio playback.

The Sound City Project is similar to Night Walk, launched earlier this year by Google. Night Walk integrates a range of Google products allowing you to explore the streets and alleyways of Marseilles at night, complete with ambient city sounds.

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