Nominated by Dr. Gordon Bell, an award-winning senior researcher at Microsoft Corporation, the award recognizes those researchers under the age of 35 whose innovative work in technology has a profound impact on today's world.
The Audio Spotlight system uses nonlinearly propagating ultrasound to create highly directional beams of sound in mid-air, which can be "shone" and "directed" much like light. Dr. Pompei was the first in the world to develop the mathematics and advanced engineering that allowed sound to be created literally from thin air with sound quality and reliability rivaling traditional loudspeakers. He presented his first paper and demonstration in 1998 to the Audio Engineering Society, and was met with a standing ovation from the world's top audio professionals. Once the audio industry was shown that such a system could actually work - and once Pompei published a paper showing exactly how, several other groups have done their best to copy the device, but none have succeeded. "One of those who have widely claimed invention, Elwood Norris of American Technology Corporation, has already spent $40 million of public stockholders' money trying to approach the performance of the device I personally showed them when I presented my scientific paper in 1998, and they still don't have a single public installation anywhere in the world," says Pompei. "I'm happy that Technology Review correctly recognized me as the true inventor of the technology."
The Audio Spotlight sound system, developed and manufactured by Holosonics, is currently used around the world for museums, tradeshows, retail displays, exhibitions, and special effects, and will soon be available for consumer applications. Companies such as Motorola, Time-Warner, DaimlerChrysler, Kraft Foods, Sega, and American Greetings have chosen the Audio Spotlight, and Audio Spotlight systems have been installed in venues such as Boston's Museum of Science, the Matisse Museum, Sega's Joypolis, Bibliotheque National de France, Boston Center for the Arts, the European PGA tour, and the Chicago Cultural Center.
Dr. Pompei was honored at a ceremony in September which included speakers Michael Dell, Founder and CEO of Dell Computer Corporation; Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman of the Board and CEO of General Electric; Bob Metcalfe, Founder of 3Com Corporation and General Partner at Polaris Venture Partners; and Nathan Myhrvold, Ph.D., Managing Director of Intellectual Ventures and former CTO of Microsoft Corporation.
About Dr. F. Joseph Pompei
Beginning his career in acoustics at 16 as the youngest engineer at Bose Corporation, Joseph Pompei continued at Bose while earning a degree in Electrical Engineering with an Electronic Arts minor from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Recognizing the importance and underutilisation of spatialised sound, he decided to pursue research in psychoacoustics at Northwestern University, earning a Master's degree. Acutely aware of the limitations of traditional loudspeakers, he had the idea of using ultrasound as an acoustic projector, and has now developed such a device, called the "Audio Spotlight" at the MIT Media Lab, continuing his education to earn a Ph. D. Holosonics was founded in 1999 to commercialize the technology, and remains the world leader in directed audio solutions.
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