COURT TV HAS CREEPY 'WHISPER' CAMPAIGN
By HOLLY M. SANDERS
November 8, 2006 -- If you hear voices in your head talking about committing murder, you're mind isn't playing tricks on you.
"Hey you, over here. Don't turn around," the voice warns. "Can you hear me? Do you ever think about murder, committing the ultimate crime?"
The trickster in this case is Court TV, which is drawing on some cutting-edge creepiness to make it seem like someone is talking to you - and only you.
The effect is achieved by focusing a beam of sound much like a laser. Someone standing in the beam can hear the voice loud and clear, while someone standing just two feet away can't.
Court TV has installed the sound devices, dubbed the "mystery whisperer," in a number of bookstores to promote its upcoming crime series, "Murder by the Book," narrated by popular crime authors such as James Ellroy and Jonathan Kellerman.
So don't be surprised if you're walking through the mystery section and you suddenly hear a voice come out of nowhere.
There are also plans to install the devices in the Time Warner Center.
The technology has been in use for years - mostly for military applications - but the brains behind the "audiobeam" predicted it would eventually move into the commercial realm.
Advertising seemed like a natural fit. Supermarkets and stores could beam product enticements at passersby with little or no ambient noise to annoy others nearby.
Someday the pitches could even be customized for each customer.
The technology may sound a little scary - almost Big Brother to some - but Zoom said there have been no complaints from either bookstore owners or customers.
Most people seem intrigued if a little perplexed.
Zoom has stationed observers, who pretend to read for hours, at several locations to gauge the customer reaction as they try to figure out the sound.
"They smile, they step into [the beam] and then back out again," said Patrick West, a vice president at Zoom.
Court TV and Zoom also put up poster displays to tip off consumers that it is part of an ad campaign.
If they can't figure it out or continue to hear voices, then the audio ad offers up some sound advice at the end.
"If you continue to hear a voice after walking away, please seek help immediately."
I referenced an article from Scotsman from 2002 in my MFA thesis on The Use Of Sound For Control, Healing and Empowerment. It sounds like the exact same technology.
(excerpt from my thesis)
In 2002, Woody Norris, the CEO of American Technology Corporation, announced the development of a sonic weapon for the Pentagon, which fires “sonic bullets.” The demonstration model of the device resembles a large stereo speaker and uses a “hypersonic sound system” which projects two beams of ultrasonic frequency, which act as a laser-precise carrier over which a 140dB sound is projected. The sound will only be heard by the target the beam is projected at, while those outside the beam would hear nothing. To the target, the sound would be about as loud as being under a jet engine taking off. A selection of 50 sound tracks is available to the operator, one of the most powerful being the sound of a baby crying, played backwards. Norris explained, “[For] most people, even if they plug their ears, it will produce the equivalent of an instant migraine. Some people, it will knock them on their knees (“Sound To Make An Army Flee”).”
American Technology Corporation has also developed another device using their Hypersonic Sound System, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Installed in a vending machine, vendor display or advertisement, directional sound can be projected so that when a consumer passes by they hear a sound, message or advertisement, silent to other shoppers around them. Norris demonstrated the device at a mall near his office, directing it at passers-by, who all stopped to listen when the sound was directed at them. One woman was quoted as saying, “That is absolutely amazing. It sounds like the sound is inside your head (“Sound To Make An Army Flee”).” A popular soda company is planning to install the directional sound device in their vending machines, so that approaching customers will hear the sound of soda being poured over ice.
Sounds To Make An Army Flee: