Austria Day 3
Monday, May 23
Today was our second full day in Vienna, Austria! We started out our day with a trip to a local coffee shop where we all enjoyed some delicious cakes and coffee. We made one business visit to the Acoustics Research Institute, which is a part of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Once the business visit was complete, the rest of the day was considered a free day for everyone to go and explore the city on their own.
Upon arriving at the Acoustics Research Institute (ARI) we were warmly greeted by the director, Peter Balazs, who started out our visit with a short presentation. ARI is a multidisciplinary institute made up of roughly 45 people. They are known to be a close cooperation with internationally recognized scientific partners and they have openness to new research fields and topics fitting in this setting. The institute is also committed to reproducible research and cumulative software development. The cool part about this institute is that it is not directly affiliated with a university so their main focus is solely acoustical research. The four main scientific disciplines within ARI are mathematics and signal processing, acoustic phonetics, physical and computational acoustics, and psychoacoustics and experimental audiology.
Due to the fact that acoustical models are heuristic, the focus within the mathematics and signal processing discipline is finding the efficient formulation through mathematical theory and acoustical application. This discipline develops algorithms and new mathematical and signal processing methods for acoustical applications.
When creating detailed models and real-time applications from the acoustical research, you must have efficient computational methods. This is where the physical and computational acoustics discipline comes into play. They create simulations of sound fields with numerical methods as well as propagation of vibrations caused by traffic. They use head-related transfer function (HRTF) modeling, physical models for estimation of speech production filter parameters, and microphone arrays for localization of sources.
ARI has the acoustic phonetics discipline due to speech production and perception being one of the most important topics in acoustics. Basically, this discipline studies hearing. They research the articulation and perception of acoustics using general and applied linguistics as well as natural language and signal processing.
Spatial hearing is very important for speech communication and safety which brings me to the final discipline within ARI, psychoacoustics and experimental audiology. This discipline researches using normal hearing, hearing impaired, and electrically stimulated hearing. There is a large potential for new scientific discoveries and improvement of future hearing systems. This discipline alone takes a multidisciplinary approach researching irregular sampling theory, HRTF modeling, and speech perception models.
ARI has had many achievements up until today. They received five patents and have had 41 peer-reviewed journal papers or book contributions, 75% of which were published in top journals. About 50% of their research was by third party’s and ARI has successfully published several software downloads.
The presentation concluded with a statement stating that the Acoustics Research Institute stands for open application, outstanding multidisciplinary and scientific research in acoustics, and a research area of high importance for society. We were then introduced to the director of the psychoacoustics and experimental audiology, Bernard Laback. He took us to his workspace to give a tour and short tutorial of some technology they use within this discipline.
This discipline was located on the bottom floor of ARI due to the fact that they require heavy soundproof booths weighing up to approximately ten tons. They have four different set ups and three soundproof booths to experiment with. The two small booths were used for headphone experiments and then one big booth used for acoustical stimulation or measurements.
Within the big booth was a loudspeaker arc, which works by seating someone in the center of the arc and placing microphones in the person’s ears. These microphones will then measure how different parts of the ear are affected by different frequencies that come from different locations. Also within the big booth was a virtual reality testing station used to make a virtual sphere. The goal is to improve localization of sounds by trying to make sounds more real.
I got the opportunity, as well as a couple others in the group, to try out the virtual reality tester. How it works is you put on these goggles, which gives you the image of being in a sphere. You then put on some headphones and you hold a small pointer gun (like a video game gun). The object within this test is to hear a sound through the headphones and to point the gun in the location you heard it from. After it marks where you heard the sound, the computer will then show you through your goggles exactly where the sound came from by placing a red box in the correct location to show you how far off you were. I personally did not think it was a very easy task and the goggles did a good job of making me pretty dizzy.
This business meeting was overall a very informational and entertaining meeting. We concluded our trip to ARI with a group photo with the directors and made our way back to the hotel to enjoy the rest of our day in Vienna doing what we wanted… aka shopping!
Loves to sing and play guitar!