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Raytheon developing 3D hearing for pilots


March 28, 2013

Raytheon's 3D Audio system presenting a threat warning

Raytheon's 3D Audio system presenting a threat warning

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Pilots need sharp eyes, but Raytheon is looking to their ears as well. The company has developed a new 3D Audio system for aircraft, that turns information into an audible three-dimensional picture. It helps pilots identify where threats are coming from, and keeps radio channels untangled.

If there’s a threat, we’re more likely to turn toward a shouted warning rather than the threat itself. To prevent a warning from becoming a distraction, Raytheon’s 3D Audio system makes the threat identify itself by turning the direction and nature of the incoming danger into an audible, stereophonic signal that seems to come from where the threat originates.

Currently, most warnings are either visual, such as from screens, head-up displays or ocular displays; or as monaural alarms that tell the pilot what the threat is, but not where. What the Raytheon 3D system does is give audible warnings a stereo dimension that makes the warning signal come from the same direction as the threat.

More important, the system can detect when the pilot turns his head, and it adjusts the sound’s direction accordingly. “You always hear them from where they actually are,” said J.D. Hill, a program engineer. “You don’t have to interpret anything. It’s all just about reaction and what you hear.”

Another feature of the 3D Audio system is that it helps pilots to distinguish between several radio channels at the same time. It works a bit like how we can carry on a conversation with several people at a party. Because the participants are standing in different places, it’s easy for the ears to figure out who is speaking. With a pilot listening in on a pair of headphones, that is lost because of the two-dimensional nature of the sound.

“Pilots for years have been listening to three or four radios, and when two people would talk at the same time, it would just come across garbled,” Todd Lovell, a Raytheon engineer and former V-22 Osprey pilot.“With the 3D Audio, we can put those radios in different spatial locations relative to your head.”

Unlike at a party, a pilot can configure the system to determine whose voice comes from where. For example, a co-pilot’s voice might come from the right, a passenger’s from behind and the air traffic controller from ahead.

The Raytheon 3D Audio system is part of a suite of situational awareness systems that includes an Advanced Distributed Aperture System that gives pilots a “glass ball” view around the aircraft, and the Aviation Warrior wearable computer that allows the suite to keep working if the pilot leaves the cockpit, so going aft to check the cargo section doesn’t leave the pilot blind.

The video below outlines Raytheon 3D Audio’s capabilities.

Source: Raytheon via Popular Science

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Harris Corp owns the patent on this and i am the inventor. Not Raytheon. Paper was presented at MILCOM 2006. Patent was applied for in 2006

Patent number: 7876903 Filing date: Jul 7, 2006 Issue date: Jan 25, 2011 Application number: 11/482,326

sorry but raytheon is behind the times and should be ready for a law suite unless they get license from Harris Corp of Melbourne Florida


This tech has been obsolete for decades. The problem is bandwidth--or so it was thought. A person can "recognize" about 300 voices of friends and associates. A person can "recognize" unlimited number of spoken words, and we have limited close/distant/directional discrimination. All can be utilized, however. The computer trains the pilot (or blind aircraft controller) to recognize both the voices of people, their vocal characteristics of seven emotions/states of sobriety, etc., and special words for aerial maneuver. Once trained a computer can project multiple data sets into the 4d space of the listening mind. This is the Force Training with the blast shield down, basically. The learnable (as youths/children) language for position, direction, and movements in space is called Callish. It has a grammar, and with fluency, a native speaking pilot can keep track of fifteen points in space "around" her drone (at admittedly low resolution for most people) without paying any attention at all. The famous Ohio research AFB & Ft. Worth Raytheon have been working with Callish for decades. (I presented the concept back in the 1980's.)


You can't patent the idea for 3D sound separation just the method of doing so.


We've had this in the Danish f-16s for several years now. It is developed and built by the Danish company Terma. Especially useful when warning about and incomming missile.

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