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In the Big Apple, the voices in your head say 'buy stuff'

The Audio Spotlight directional sound system targets individuals with specific messages without disturbing anybody else -- it's audio advertising without the noise pollution

In SoHo, New York City, the voices really are in your head. If you walked down Prince Street recently you may have heard someone whispering, "Who's that? Who's there? It's not your imagination." But nobody around you hears a thing.

Has urban life finally caused you to lose your mind? No, although this piece of technology suggests someone has. A billboard  above you advertises Paranormal State, a spooky TV series, and you are in a cone of sound directed from a speaker overhead. 

This is the Audio Spotlight directional sound system from Holosonic Research Labs. The company specialises in 'nonlinear acoustics', and has developed this system to target individuals with specific messages without disturbing anybody else. It's audio advertising without the noise pollution, and has been used in bookshops and museums.

Holosonic is run by Dr F Joseph Pompei, who sounds like a character in a Blade Runner-style dystopian future -- heck, I may even write that: Joe Pompei, Private Dick of the Future. He claims we'll get used to this, just like the lights on digital signage and illuminated billboards back in the old days.

As if the city isn't noisy, distracting and dangerous enough as it is, now some clown is going to beam cryptic messages straight into our heads? Forget Blade Runner, this is Transmetropolitan territory, and if we ever start looking at our world and thinking, hey, maybe Warren Ellis was right, we're all in trouble, my friends.

But to prove that the world hasn't gone entirely mad just yet, the Audio Spotlight isn't currently bothering anybody. Joe Pompei should get on the case, because it's been nicked.