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The University of Southampton

Leading innovation in signal processing for sound and vibration

Through close partnerships with industry, the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) has pioneered novel signal processing methods that benefit a wide range of sectors, including aviation, defence, border security, home entertainment and broadcasting.

Active sound and vibration control systems for turboprop aircraft

ISVR noise cancellation

Professor Stephen Elliott worked with market leader Ultra Electronics to develop an improved system for actively controlling the noise and vibration of the inner surface of an aircraft fuselage. The system uses actuators to cancel low frequency propeller, turbine and compressor noise and vibration, thereby reducing unwanted noise in the passenger cabin.

Ultra Electronics have manufactured and fitted 1,500 of the systems to most types of commercial and military turboprop aircraft, including those produced by Bombardier, Lockheed, Beechcraft, and Saab.

Active sound and vibration control systems for naval vessels

In maritime applications, auxiliary and propulsion machinery cause vibration that leads to passenger and crew discomfort and radiated noise that is harmful to marine life.

Several large-scale programmes funded by BAE Systems and led by Professor Stephen Daley and Dr Jordan Cheer have developed efficient signal processing algorithms and technologies for reducing such noise. These are crucial to enabling maritime vessels to meet noise targets stipulated by EU legislation and detailed manufacturing specifications agreed with the purchaser.

As a result, BAE Systems have significantly reduced their financial exposure to this risk, and have invested a further £2m into ISVR research through the EPSRC Prosperity Partnership Programme.

Strengthening border security in the UK and mainland Europe

In a 2015 project funded by Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative, ISVR researchers used high fidelity vehicle motion measurement to accurately detect hidden human presence in vehicles and differentiate it from extraneous environmental disturbances. The technology is capable of identifying the faintest noise such as an agitated heartbeat.

In 2016, the University signed a framework agreement to supply and maintain machines based on this human detection technology to the UK Border Force. ClanTect Ltd was spun out to deliver the technology, and has sold multiple machines to border agencies and prison authorities around the world.

Commercial impact via the development of 3D audio technologies

AudioScenic Smart Bar

ISVR research into 3D audio reproduction has led to the creation of two further University of Southampton spinout companies.

Opsodis Ltd is a joint venture with Japanese engineering firm Kajima Corporation. It was incorporated in 2004 to license patented technology on optimal source distribution of sound, developed by Professor Philip Nelson and Dr Takashi Takeuchi.

The company has recently 3D-rendered both Dolby Atmos and the 22.2 surround multichannel sound system being introduced by Japan’s national broadcaster. Opsodis’ technology was also included in the AQUOS sound bar launched by Sharp Corporation in 2020.

Audioscenic Ltd was incorporated in 2017 to commercialise 3D audio technology developed by Dr Filippo Fazi and Dr Marcos Simon-Galvez. Their ‘Virtua’ technology uses destructive and constructive sound cancellation techniques to produce realistic 3D audio from a single, compact soundbar, without the need for bulky headphones. The technology also relies on a camera that tracks the listener so that the audio reproduction algorithm is optimised in real-time depending on the listener’s position. AudioScenic has received millions of pounds of external funding and has created ten jobs.

The creation of immersive 3D audio experiences and a new industry standard for spatial audio

The development of open-source software for audio processing, VISR (Versatile Interactive Scene Renderer), led by Dr Filippo Fazi and Dr Andreas Franck, has enabled the BBC to create award-winning new immersive experiences that have subsequently been adopted by the European Broadcasting Union and the International Telecommunication Union.

The BBC used VISR to create immersive virtual reality productions on its BBC Taster platform, and 3D audio for the sci-fi drama The Vostok-K Incident in 2018. Positive audience feedback shaped the development of their Audio Orchestrator, which allows users to rework their audio projects into interactive 360° spatial audio, enveloping their listeners in sound via the speakers in their personal devices.

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