Soundtrack to Google Earth

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Fly around the Spanish coastal city of San Sebastián in Dinther Product Design's Google Earth experiment, and the accompanying audio shifts to match where you are.

Out at sea you can hear the crashing of the waves, but as you move closer to shore the barge noises become louder. Continue zooming in and crates are being unloaded. When you find yourself on the seaside street, you can hear the chatter in a restaurant. To one side, the sounds of a helicopter's whirring blades get louder, pan the other way and a street performer plays an accordion. The sounds even seem to adjust to the side of the camera facing them. When the restaurant is to your right, the sounds in that ear are louder.

The experience, which relies on seven sound sources and nine audio files, is enchanting and it operates from a handful of small JavaScript files. The scripts control the volume on a 100-point scale, based on how close you are to the location of the sound. But the system doesn't just adjust volume, it also adjusts quality. Move close enough to the helicopter and you hear its blades loudly and sharply whipping the air. As you zoom out, the noise gets not only quieter, but more muffled.

Watch it in action below, or try the experiment out for yourself (the Google Earth plugin must be installed).

[via O'Reilly Radar.]


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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.
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