Fun profile of Woody Norris, inventor of HyperSonic Sound, a technology that "beams" sound so that it sounds like it is coming from inside your head.
Woody Norris aims the silvery plate at his quarry. A burly brunette 200 feet away stops dead in her tracks and peers around, befuddled. She has walked straight into the noise of a Brazilian rain forest -- then out again. Even in her shopping reverie, here among the haircutters and storefront tax-preparers and dubious Middle Eastern bistros, her senses inform her that she has just stepped through a discrete column of sound, a sharply demarcated beam of unexpected sound. ''Look at that,'' Norris mutters, chuckling as the lady turns around. ''She doesn't know what hit her.''
Norris is demonstrating something called HyperSonic Sound (HSS). The aluminum plate is connected to a CD player and an odd amplifier -- actually, a very odd and very new amplifier -- that directs sound much as a laser beam directs light. Over the past few years, mainly in secret, he has shown the device to more than 300 major companies, and it has slackened a lot of jaws. In December, the editors of Popular Science magazine bestowed upon HSS its grand prize for new inventions of 2002, choosing it over the ferociously hyped Segway scooter. It is no exaggeration to say that HSS represents the first revolution in acoustics since the loudspeaker was invented 78 years ago -- and perhaps only the second since pilgrims used ''whispering tubes'' to convey their dour messages.