Microsoft Research is working on a system that makes sounds seem to originate from specific points in space. Electronics on the top of the headphones have sensors to track the motion of the wearer’s head. Microsoft Researchers call it a 3-D Audio. Technology Review recently had a chance to experience this technology at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley lab. I put on a pair of wireless headphones that made nearby objects suddenly burst into life. A voice appeared to emanate from a cardboard model of a portable radio. Higher quality music seemed to come from a fake hi-fi speaker. And a stuffed bird high off the ground produced realistic chirps. As I walked around, the sounds changed so that the illusion never slipped as their position relative to my ears changed. That somewhat eerie experience was made possible because less than a minute earlier I had sat down in front of a ...

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