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Hand-held "Sound Camera" Shows You the Source of Noises 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the sounds-like-trouble dept.
Zothecula writes "If you work with machinery, engines or appliances of any type, then you've likely experienced the frustration of hearing a troublesome noise coming from somewhere, but not being able to pinpoint where. If only you could just grab a camera, and take a picture that showed you the noise's location. Well, soon you should be able to do so, as that's just what the SeeSV-S205 sound camera does."
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Hand-held "Sound Camera" Shows You the Source of Noises

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  • Screwdriver (Score:5, Interesting)

    Old but cool mechanic's trick: use a screwdriver. Place the metal against a running engine, put the ( plastic or wood ) handle against your ear. Hear amazing things inside of the running engine.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm a proctologist. No need to see where the noise is coming from.

    • Re:Screwdriver (Score:5, Informative)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:06AM (#43702033) Homepage Journal

      Old but cool mechanic's trick: use a screwdriver. Place the metal against a running engine, put the ( plastic or wood ) handle against your ear. Hear amazing things inside of the running engine.

      You can augment that by stuffing the end of the screwdriver into a length of rubber hose; you get the same effect, without having to stick your face 4 inches from the reciprocating assembly.

      • Re:Screwdriver (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:30AM (#43702153)

        You can augment that by stuffing the end of the screwdriver into a length of rubber hose; you get the same effect, without having to stick your face 4 inches from the reciprocating assembly.

        Or you can use a long screwdriver.

        That's what real mechanics do.

        • You can augment that by stuffing the end of the screwdriver into a length of rubber hose; you get the same effect, without having to stick your face 4 inches from the reciprocating assembly.

          Or you can use a long screwdriver.

          That's what real mechanics do.

          Or you can evacuate the inside of your head and create a parallel universe in there with the end of a screwdriver as the point source in the middle, connected to the car via 60,000 feet of tram cable and examine the engine while holding the giraffe and reciting from memory the verse contents of the Egyptian edition of "Lord of the Rings".

          That's what surreal mechanics do.

      • Re:Screwdriver (Score:4, Insightful)

        by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @03:55PM (#43703533)
        Somebody down below mention the other solution of using a longer screwdriver (which works very well :>) ), but your solution works and is also called a stethoscope [wikipedia.org]! I'm just not sure I'd want to have rubber tubing near a running car engine, as a hot part could melt the rubber and fuse the tube to that hot part, or a dangling loop of rubber could get caught up in some moving part or a fan-belt.
        :>)
        I personally think that the longer screwdriver approach is safer ! ! !
    • Re:Screwdriver (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:09AM (#43702057)

      You can get a stethoscope with a metal probe at Harbor Freight (in the USA) for under $5. An amazing tool to listen to working machinery. Like the screwdriver, times 10.

      • Re:Screwdriver (Score:4, Informative)

        by Hartree (191324) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @12:03PM (#43702313)

        I use that very one at work to find bad bearings and the like in vacuum pumps. One of the most useful $4 items I've bought.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Combine that with a recorder that can do 96khz or the like - then load it up in an audio editor of your choice and set the sample rate back down (without resampling) and now you can hear all those crazy things going on that were too fast to hear properly.

          I used a Zoom H1 to poke around under my car's hood. You can hear each cylinder detonating distinctly, hear the camshaft rotating, etc.

    • I took a disposable (plastic) stethoscope, removed the chest piece, and replaced it with an 12" long 1/4" dia. steel rod. The thing works well on engines, pillow blocks, bearings, and other hard surfaces. A sound camera would be a great help with soft noises like a vacuum leak, rattles, and squeaks. It would also be nice for identifying which ass-hat at a stop light has the bass turned so far up that things in my car are pulsing to the beat...
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Good luck with that, the sound camera is going to be seeing all the reflections that you are complaining about.

    • My dad used a wooden dowel rod or broomstick to listen to the hard-to-reach spots.

    • Old but cool mechanic's trick: use a screwdriver. Place the metal against a running engine, put the ( plastic or wood ) handle against your ear. Hear amazing things inside of the running engine.

      Yes, but from the military's point of view, that won't be useful for building killer robots instantly killing anyone who as much as whispers in the battle zone. This, on the other hand...

    • Wouldn't it damage your hearing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maxwell demon (590494)

      Old but cool mechanic's trick: use a screwdriver. Place the metal against a running engine, put the ( plastic or wood ) handle against your ear. Hear amazing things inside of the running engine.

      Does it have to be a sonic screwdriver?

    • Most car parts places will sell "automobile stethoscopes" for a few bucks, basically an el cheapo stethoscope attached to a metal rod. Very handy, and clearer and easier to use than the screwdriver trick. Easy way to tell if the fuel injectors are firing.

  • by jmv (93421) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @10:34AM (#43701913) Homepage

    Don't know about this particular project, but back when I did my PhD, I open-sourced my sound localization algorithm [sourceforge.net]. Tracks up to ~4 moving sound sources in real-time using 8 microphones.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      that's neat, recently I completed my first year project course, where we localized walls in the room.

    • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @12:08PM (#43702337)

      I'm wondering if you saw or read about a sound device that someone made a while ago, probably in the 1990s. A teenage girl won a science or engineering contest for building a device to help bird watchers find a particular bird they can hear, but not see through the leaves. It was a couple dozen tubes, like a big bunch of straws, cut to different lengths and mounted on a tripod.

      When you hear the bird chirping, and can tell the general direction in the trees around you, you point this thing in that direction and move it around, and listen for the sound to get louder when it's pointing at the bird. It didn't use any microphone, or even a power source, just natural sound propagation in the tubes.

      I've been googling for it for an hour now, but I don't even know what the device would be called. Do you know what I am talking about? Or at least what the device would be called? I guess it wasn't commercially made, or there would be a page somewhere selling them.

      • by redneckmother (1664119) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @12:27PM (#43702431) Journal
        Popular Electronics had a project in the '60s called "Shotgun Sound Snooper". It was a collection of metal tubes, ranging from 1 inch to 36 inches in 1 inch increments, arranged in a hex. A funnel enclosed a microphone at one end, and connected to an amplifier with a headphone connection. The tubes would resonate at different frequencies. It was a great homemade shotgun mic, capable of detecting a whispered conversation at 250 yards in a stiff breeze. Wish I still had mine!
        • Yeah, that's basically what this girl made. After image-googleing for Shotgun Sound Snooper, I think hers was shorter. The middle tubes weren't so much longer than rest. I think because it was for bird-watching, and bird calls tend to be higher pitch, she could focus on having the tubes concentrated on the shorter wavelengths than if she was trying to listen to a human conversation. Though now I'm not sure whether or not she added the funnel and microphone to record the sounds as well.

          So, thanks for the inf

    • by citizenr (871508)

      Nice.

      One from the article solves sync problems by building an array of cheap ($1 for Nokia ones) cellphone digital microphone modules.
      This is quite brilliant and reduces cost tremendously. All you need is one USB I/O chip with 20-30 IO pins.

      How fast is your algorithm? Could it run on average (2x 1GHz A8) ARM tablet? Is it expendable to more microphones?

      This smells like a perfect kickstarter project - app + USB dongle you connect to android tablet/phone.

    • it might be possible to use this sound locating algorithm in an electronic package to aid soldiers in battle.

      Imagine if every time a sound of gunfire is heard, it pinpoints the location and displays it on a map, like a radar. You can even integrate it with an existing friend-or-foe system that tracks all friendlies via GPS, so that friendly soldiers are displayed in green and enemy gunfire is painted in red.

      It would work fairly well and help soldiers become more effective. At least until the enemy starts us

    • I hovered over the link and thought "Man Years? What the hell kind of project title is that? Oh, wait..."
    • by CBravo (35450)
      And I've always wanted to use something like that to identify and localize mosquitos in my room. All you need then is a laser.
  • That's got to be the most exciting tech toy I've heard of in a long time. Kudos to those bringing this to life.
  • So if you're looking for that you can skip reading the article.

  • by ledow (319597)

    How long before we can extend this Aliens-wise and get a working motion tracker?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:08AM (#43702053)

    Because that's really the only time when it's impossible to know where the hell the sound is coming from in my experience.

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      dont have 100 tabs your not looking at open and problem solved

    • Did any browser implement this obvious idea...

      Display a mini VU meter in any tab who's web page is producing noise. As most web-pages don't produce noise, it wouldn't clutter the UI. And if there's 2 sources, you could probably tell which is which from the flickering of the VU compared to what you hear.

  • Ping vs Knock (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:12AM (#43702069) Homepage Journal

    Knowing where the sound comes from is quite handy, but often that's only half the battle - knowing what kind of sound it is is equally important.

    A 'ping' coming from your engine block has an entirely different mechanical connotation than a knock or whine from the same region.

    Still cool, can't wait to see what lies ahead.

    • Brilliant! Take a noise sample at the start with a phone app, enter in the make model and year, get hints, and then enter the cause when found to contribute to the data set.
      • by Hanzie (16075) *

        Your comment is an amazingly good idea.

        Build a sound library of normal running engine sounds of various models/engines/transmission combos.
        then subtract the normal sound from the current sample
        What's left over would be the 'funny noise'
        Have the device find the location of just that sound pattern.

        You could even build a library of 'funny noises' to match your particular funny noise against.
        Kind of like doctors, who have built up databases of symptoms to match diseases.

        • A simple backpropagation neural network could correlate the learning pairs of sound (or sound,make,model,year,engine location) and problem.
        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Subtracting waves doesn't work so well if the waves are not the same frequency and phase.

          They will not be, in this case.

          The best you can do is do a Fourier analysis and then look for abnormal patterns.

      • by tomlouie (264519)

        It's a great idea. If you throw in a bluetooth dongle onto your car's OBDII port, then you can have your phone app automatically collect stats from the car computer *while* sampling engine noises at various modes of operation:

        engine startup
        idling
        various points in the RPM range
        etc...

  • by afaiktoit (831835) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:55AM (#43702275)
    to find that damn cricket that woke you up at 3am
  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @12:12PM (#43702359) Homepage Journal

    A ball inside a ball-bearing race typically fails by "spalling [google.com]": a tiny flake breaks off of the surface of the ball.

    As it rolls around the race, the ball makes a periodic "tick" sound whose frequency is related to its rotation.

    So... if you record the sound coming from an engine, and you have an index mark input (when the flywheel reaches TDC, for instance) and you know the gearing ratios of all the shafts, the inner race and outer race diameter of the ball bearing races, and the number of balls &c you can relate the frequency to a particular bearing which is going bad before it fails.

    You can do the same thing for the races: the inner and outer races rotate with a particular speed relative to the balls, so a crack or spall on a race will also make a sound at a particular frequency.

    Essentially, look for energy in the particular frequency that a particular failure in a particular bearing would make based on the engine RPM, and repeat for all races. If you find enough energy (ie - audio volume), you know which bearing is going bad and the nature of the problem.

    A bad gear typically starts with a broken tooth: a crack forms at the base of the tooth, resulting in a tooth which doesn't push as hard against the mating tooth in the next gear. This causes the driving shaft to speed up slightly as the cracked tooth mates, and slow down for the next tooth due to inertia.

    If you continuously monitor an accelerometer attached to one of the engine shafts you can see this speedup/slowdown signature, and if you know the gearing ratio you can figure out which gear is going bad within the engine. The crack tends to mature over time, so an individual tooth will first become "wobbly" before complete failure.

    A Journal Bearing [efunda.com] typically wears when the "hole" becomes bigger than the shaft (the oil and mating shaft grind the hole bigger over time). When this happens, the mating shaft and attached mechanics will "wobble" within the hole, causing a noticeable shift in the mass of the engine.

    If you continuously monitor an accelerometer attached to the engine block, you can index this wobble to the shaft speed based on the engine RPM and tell if any bearings are failing and how bad they are.

    In all cases you can determine the nature and extent of the damage while it is relatively minor - before it damages other parts of the engine (scored shafts, pieces breaking off, catastrophic failure in flight, &c.)

    At the time this was figured out the technology was expensive to implement, so it was only appropriate in select situations - aircraft maintenance, for instance.

    Nowadays with the rise of high-power microprocessors and personal phone displays, perhaps some enterprising hobbyist will figure out a way to implement this for automobile maintenance.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      this camera, full engine specs, and some fairly simple algorithms would effectively allow you to have an engine 'Tricorder'. Hell, you could actually build it in as on-board diagnostics.

      • Wheel balancing (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @01:08PM (#43702681) Homepage Journal

        We were using a variant of this to help balance helicopter blades. Put accelerometers on the frame, [carefully] run up the engine while tethered, analyze the vibration, advise the tech how to adjust the blade weights, and repeat. Eventually you get well-balanced blades.

        A similar system could diagnose wheel and tire issues. Mount an accelerometer and a microphone on the frame near each of the wheels and try to detect vibration and/or frequencies that correlate with wheel or shaft rotation, and frame vibration.

        I'd love to have an onboard diagnostic that shows an X-ray diagram of the engine drive-train, with green/yellow/red circles around the various parts and listings detailing the type of part and level of health.

        You could also implement active balance compensation.

        You can never balance anything exactly perfect, but if you can measure and analyze the balance you can compensate for minor imperfections. An electromagnet mounted near a shaft can "pull" the shaft slightly at the right point in its rotation, compensating for a tiny amount of imbalance.

        For small values of "compensate", you can tune your mechanical system to be much quieter and have much less wear. The same system can measure the amount of compensation needed, and alert the user when the engine exceeds the system's ability to compensate.

        Lots of interesting possibilities here for active computer-control of mechanical systems.

        • by Hanzie (16075) *

          A long time ago I had an idea:
          Fiber optics carrying light through the blades to illuminate the tips.

          The lights could be mounted rigidly to the airframe and shine up at the base of the rotors. You could even filter the color of the lights so they're yellow in front, red or green on the sides and red in back.

          PLEASE take the idea and run with it. Decapitations are a real problem with rotors. And they'd look cool at night, too.

          While we're on the subject, you could also put batteries and electronics in the ho

          • by Hanzie (16075) *

            Decapitations are a real problem with rotors. And they'd look cool at night, too.

            Sorry, I'm referring to the illuminated rotor tips looking cool at night, NOT decapitations.

        • Obviously, this would work for propellers and tail rotors, too. Careful design should make it invisible, or reduced visibility to the pilot. If that were a bad thing. Time, hopefully, will tell.

          Again, good luck!

    • Check these out for more info:

      "Detection of rolling Element Bearing Damage by Statistical Analysis" by D. Dyer and R.M. Stewart (Journal of Mechanical Design)

      "Envelope Analysis - the Key to rolling-element bearing diagnosis" by Joelle Courrech and Mark Gaudet" (Bruel & Kjaer Application Note)

  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @01:27PM (#43702797)

    Now we need one that shows the source of a smell (at least, my family certainly does).

    • by mianne (965568)
      "Just follow your nose! It always knows!"
      • by Type44Q (1233630)

        The look on the four year old's face (when she's accusing her sister of being the culprit) is usually a more effective giveaway (not to mention a less-noxious one)... :)

    • by fluor2 (242824)

      Agree! Unfortunately smell is gas that may be hard to track down as it floats depending upon a lot of factors like wind etc. :-)

  • 100m runway? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Raptoer (984438)

    If it needs a 100m runway isn't it really just an untra-light plane?
    A Helicopter is much closer to a flying car than this thing...

    • by Raptoer (984438)

      And of course I post on the wrong topic, please ignore.

      • by Hanzie (16075) *

        Not necessarily the wrong topic. I know that lots of times I wonder where the overhead plane I'm hearing is. This baby should be able to help me find it as it passes by.

  • I worked at a power station with steam-driven turbines where this sort of sound camera could be very useful. The discharge side of these turbines are kept in a vacuum state to pull steam through more efficiently. Unlike most leak where you see or feel what's coming out, vacuum leaks suck inward and sound is the best way to locate them. The ambient noise in a power station prevents use of ears until you're mere inches from the source and several people could spend days in that type of search. The only aid w

    • by MF4218 (1320441)

      I know this might sound low-tech but what about coloured smoke?

      • I've not heard this ever being tried, though it's reasonable. Seems more likely to work with leaks occurring outward rather than the inward type in this situation. At one time in the nuclear industry flames and associated smoke were used to find inward type leaks until the flame was sucked into a hole where it ignited some wiring insulation, caused a fire that was difficult to extinguish and pretty well eliminated use of the approach throughout the industry. That flame approach was also used where less turb

  • My first reaction was military application. The moment the sniper fires a shot this passive device would tell its (dehumanization) exact position.
    • by Hanzie (16075) *

      That system already exists, designed to find shooters in cities with widely scattered microphones. A portable version would be a help. Hooked to an aiming system, it could ruin a sniper's day.

      • A portable version would be a help. Hooked to an aiming system, it could ruin a sniper's day.

        A portable (well, vehicle-mounted) system also exists [bbn.com], although it could always be smaller.

  • It might be useful if you were infected by one of these [thinkgeek.com].

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