See The Sound

This is totally awesome: using optical analysis to replicate recorded sound from old media (wax, paper, vinyl).

Read about Carl Haber’s MacArthur Fellowship

Carl Haber is an experimental physicist developing new technologies for preservation of inaccessible and deteriorating sound recordings. A vast amount of the world’s cultural heritage has been captured on fragile or obsolete recording media such as wax cylinders; shellac, lacquer, and metal discs; and tinfoil. Collections of experimental, musical, ethnographic, and historic content in libraries and museums around the world can no longer be regularly accessed by the public and are in danger of being lost forever.

Using insights from his work on imaging subatomic particle tracks in high-energy physics experiments, Haber and colleagues developed IRENE (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), a non-contact method for extracting high-quality sound from degrading or even broken analog recordings on two- or three-dimensional media. A disc or cylinder is placed in a precision optical metrology system, where a camera following the path of the grooves on the object takes thousands of images that are then cleaned to compensate for physical damage; the resulting data are mathematically interpolated to determine how a stylus would course through the undulations, and the stylus motion is converted into a standard digital sound file.

How long before somebody dumbs-down the tech to make it affordable for regular people to optically scan their old records and convert them to MP3s in seconds instead of babysitting the analog conversion.

How cool would that be?

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