Technology Quiets the Vuvuzela in Real Time

The aural pestilence of the vuvuzela, the droning horn employed by soccer fans at the 2010 World Cup, has become the defining sound of the event, but thanks to better computing power and software, the noise can now be (mostly) erased from broadcasts of the proceeding before they hit your screen. But the ability to eliminate the buzz around the World Cup presents an ethical conundrum for the digital age. With more computing power available, real-time image and sound processing can literally change the way we view and hear the world in ways that were once limited to magazines using Photoshop or movies and TV shows employing heavy post-production editing.

The EEtimes wrote this morning about a digital signal-processing company that sells audio equipment to major music, television and movie studios. The company, Waves, offers an extension package to reduce the B-flat tones of the Vuvuzela from broadcasts of the event in real time, without interfering with other sounds.

Waves told EETimes that it’s working with an unnamed broadcaster to help make the showings of the world Cup vuvu-free, although the demo on its site merely reduces the loud buzzing to something on the level of a few bees. The BBC has said it’s considering using such technology and today Host Broadcast Services, which provides the broadcast feed for the games, said it had redoubled its sound filters to cut down on the drone. The Inquirer has a story about a software hack translated from a German website that enables folks watching the matches on their home computers to stifle the horns.

Maybe eliminating the drone of the vuvuzela is a good use of such software, but as the tech industry perfects real-time image manipulation (and has the computing power available to adjust imagery in real time), it changes the accuracy of the images on a broadcast in ways that may be construed as unethical or at the very least, unwelcome.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Axel B├╝hrmann