Now sound can be personal without any apparatus shielding our ears. Mr. Pompei
gets letters and e-mail messages from around the world from people convinced that his
audio spotlight is being used on them as a mind control device. People have written Mr.
Pompei asking for devices to shield them from the audio spotlight's insidious mind control
uses. The sound, reportedly, seems like it is in the person's head.
A person hears a voice in her ear, turns around and sees nobody there. No one else has
heard it. Or she hears footsteps in a room, the product of an invisible presence. Is her
mind playing tricks on her? Or is it a jokester, F. Joseph Pompei? A 28-year-old graduate
student who is part scientist and part showman, Mr. Pompei has invented a device that
projects a discrete beam of sound in much the same way a spotlight projects a beam of
The audio spotlight, as Mr. Pompei has dubbed it, emits a column of sound enveloped by
silence, the way the glow of a spotlight is enveloped by darkness. Someone standing inside
the beam emitted from his flat black disk hears the sound loud and clear. Outside the beam
one hears silence or, if there are surfaces nearby, faint murmurs from the reflected sound
waves. The beams can also bounce off walls to create an impression of the source of the
sound. Companies are already dreaming up commercial applications for the beam.
Supermarkets and retail stores may beam product enticements at customers. Vending machines
may soon talk as people pass by. Dance clubs could divide up a single room into different
music zones. Daimler Chrysler is looking into installing sound beams in a truck so that
passengers can listen to their own music. The military could use it to confuse enemy
troops. American Technology Corporation, a San Diego-based company that makes a similar
product, has already sent out evaluations to military contractors, consumer electronic
manufacturers and entertainment companies. It has signed a deal with the shipbuilder Bath
Iron Works to install the sound beams on the deck of a new Aegis-class Navy destroyer as a
optional substitute for radio operators' headsets. As for consumers, Terry Conrad,
president of ATC, estimates they will start being hit by sound beams within two years.