'Sound Camera' Maps Mysterious Car Engine Noise
Hyundai Motor Group and SM Instruments
The device superimposes a sound heat-map over the video image to help technicians quickly localize the sound.
Auto shows are great for getting a glimpse into the future of the car market but, unfortunately, the coolest, most imaginative, most innovative concepts and designs often remain on the drawing board. Indeed, the automotive industry is a tough business and there’s only a small segment of the market willing or able to splurge on limited-production ultra-luxury cars. So, here are six futuristic concept cars we wish we could buy right now.
The ultimate litmus test for whether or not you’re living in the future is whether or not there are flying cars zipping through the skies. Well, here’s some good news: We’re getting really close. The TF-X from Terrafugia (pictured) will be a street legal plug-in hybrid car that has collapsible wings, retractable propellers, and is capable of driving and flying on its own in the event of an emergency.
Let’s face it: Electric cars are the future. There will, inevitably, be a time in which fossil fuels are too expensive and precious to waste on grocery store runs. In the meantime, however, super-efficient gas-powered vehicles will be a trend. And this is one trend that can’t catch on soon enough.
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Sure, steampunk has become a popular aesthetic amongst sci-fi aficionados, but could steam-powered cars really play a role in the future of transportation? It’s a long shot, but in a future where efficiency and fuel conservation are primary concerns, odd alternatives like steam could play a role.
Smartphone on Wheels
Increasingly, car companies are working to close the gap between the technology on the road and the technology in our pockets—but they still have a long way to go. Concepts like the Toyota Fun-Vii, however, show a glimmer of that interactive, intelligent, driving future.
Everyone loves the growl of a powerful super car, but we all have to admit that one design does not suit every application. Life in a city, or habitual short-trip driving demands a very different vehicle than, certainly, the race track. This growing use case presents different requirements, though, than even the majority of sedans. Microcars are a smart solution to these real-world problems.
Annoying noise—what the automotive industry calls “buzz, squeak, and rattle” (BSR) -- is the leading cause of customer complaints about new cars. Eliminating noise during the design and prototyping phase can pay big dividends, but locating transient, intermittent, ill-defined sounds like BSR or cricket chirps can be exasperatingly difficult.
Designers at Hyundai Motor Group enlisted SM Instruments, a Korean acoustic-engineering firm, to help them quickly locate irritating 200 Hz-to-20 kHz noises in car engines, bodies, instrument panels, seats, doors, any place components can vibrate or rub. The result was the SeeSV-S205, a compact, hand-held “sound camera” -- an array comprising dozens of inexpensive-but-sensitive MEMS microphones (similar to those found in cell phones) in a five-armed spiral around a video camera.
The device (like other acoustic cameras that have preceded it) compares the signals from all of the microphones—the process is called beamforming -- to trace the incoming sound back to its source.
The SeeSV, however, compresses the microphone phased array into a compact housing with a single-board, reconfigurable input-output controller. The result is a handheld test instrument that, in real time (25 frames per second), superimposes a sound heat-map over the video image to quickly localize the sound. Field programmable gate arrays in the controller and a graphical user interface let the user narrow down the frequencies analyzed, to further increase accuracy.
Though developed for the automotive industry, the compact acoustic camera can be applied to locating and eliminating unwanted noise in any engineering project. The sleek SeeSV won finalist recognition for Hundai’s Kang-Duck Ih and SM Instruments’ Youngkey K. Kim at the 2014 NI Engineering Impact Awards (formerly the Graphical System Design Achievement Awards), presented 5 August in Austin, Tex.
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