Kai Lab
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Photophonics

 

Photophonics

Photophonics is a bespoke technology that enables the transmission of an audio signal through visible light. It allows the designer to create a beautiful, spatialised audio experience where multiple beams of light can be used to produce a 3D sonic landscape.

DX17 with Nick Ryan

DX17 with Nick Ryan

Reception Study with Nick Ryan

Reception Study with Nick Ryan

System and properties

Each photophonic unit is comprised of a light transmitter (below, left) and an audio receiver (below, right). The transmitter is supplied with power as well as an audio signal from a standard PC soundcard. It converts the audio from the soundcard into a opto-acoustic signal which is perceived as a beam of light.

The emitter and receiver units

The emitter and receiver units

When the receiver encounters the beam of light, it converts the signal back into an electrical-audio signal. The receiver can be interfaced with a standard speaker or set of headphones. The receiver will only pick up the audio signal if it is in the line of sight of the transmitter, which means that the sound can be precisely spatialised.

Components of the receiver unit

Components of the receiver unit

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The photophonic system is analog and so the wireless transmission of the audio has zero latency, making this technology truly unique. Given that the audio is transferred as light, it exhibits behaviours such as linear mixing and signal attenuation. This means that audio volume decreases as the user moves away from the light source and that the listener will hear mixed audio if two or more light beams intersect. The receiver unit shown below was produced in collaboration with Phil McNeill of Kin Design.

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