We Can Now Map Rooms Down to the Millimeter with a Finger Snap


Bats do it, dolphins do it — even short-tailed shrews do it: I’m talking about echolocation, of course, or the use of sound to find and identify objects in your vicinity. When submarines do it, we call it sonar. And when Morgan Freeman’s character Lucius Fox does something like it in The Dark Knight, we call it pretty darned cool.

Now imagine using a technique like that to map a room at high resolution. And I don’t mean in general terms, approximating metrics like the reverberative acoustics of a sound space or studio, as many modern audio products do — but zeroing in on a room’s spatial particulars with millimeter accuracy. How? Using just four microphones and a finger snap.

Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s School of Computer and Communications Sciences, located in Switzerland, claim to have pulled it off (or nearly so) using an algorithm that lets…

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