Imagine yourself in a cockpit, flying a mission, listening to a multitude of critical voices delivering vital messages, all at the same time and from the same direction. Now imagine the same environment, except that the voices are now distinct and separate. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has developed 3D sound technology that creates a sound environment that mimics the way the human body receives aural cues, much like 3D movies create the perception that the viewer is part of the movie.

AFRL researcher Dr. Griffin Romigh tests 3D audio software that spatially separates sound cues to mimic real-life human audio capabilities. (Air Force photo/Richard Eldridge)

The AFRL collaborated with aviation audio control systems developer PS Engineering to give the company an exclusive‑use license, allowing PS Engineering to incorporate the multi‑talker technology into their new audio system, the PMA450, for general aviation. The technology allows the company's digital audio interface, IntelliAudio, to place two communication channels in various positions within the stereo headset, making simultaneous radio signals sound as if they are coming from different locations — essentially a 3D sound environment.

The technology has potential applications for a multitude of aviation and ground command and control systems, including air traffic control and remotely piloted vehicles.