ZEELAND, Mich. — It's an industry first for the gaming world — an audio-radar experience that helps gamers who are deaf and hard of hearing visualize sounds using an LED display.
"I can turn to wherever that sound was that much faster. So, you're doubling your senses if you will," said Tim Murphy, inventor and patent-holder of Audio Radar.
The Zeeland, Michigan native spent more than three years building Audio Radar in his gaming garage. The technology turns the subtle sounds made during gameplay into bands of light on six LED bars that surround a TV or monitor.
It lets gamers see what they can't hear by plugging it into their XBox, PlayStation or computer.
"They can now see audio events within games like 'Call of Duty: Warzone' and 'Fortnight,' these big titles that have these really sophisticated 7.1 surround physics, if you will," Murphy said. "We're now visualizing those for gamers that don't hear them, so now they're we're leveling the playing field."
Murphy has tested the technology on several popular multiplayer shooting games.
"So, if you hear footsteps coming up behind you, the light bar in the lower right-hand corner of your monitor or TV is going to start flashing to give you indications that, 'Hey, someone's right behind you, take a look,'" Murphy said. "Or, if a tank's coming up behind you, you have all your lights just blowing up on the bottom of your screen, and you know, 'Hey, I better turn around; there's something happening.'"
Anyone can use Audio Radar, but it's revolutionary for gamers in the deaf community like Dom Bearwood.
"Extremely exciting," Bearwood said. "I just, I can't even put words to it. I'm speechless at how exciting this is."
Bearwood started gaming when he was little with Super Mario on Nintendo. He says he's not super skilled but loves to play.
"Gaming is a big part of my life," Bearwood said. "But it's really helped me to see different parts of the world as far as like different perspectives and things like that. It gets me out of my own, just my own life, but also takes me out of reality sometimes and lets me just relax and have fun."
He, too, calls Audio Radar a game-changer for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
"I never realized that there were so many different sounds in the game like footsteps or shooting or background noises," he said. "I just never knew that those were there. And then when I saw all these lights going up, I was like, 'Really? Are all of those sounds going on?' Like even when somebody falls, when they die, there's a sound, and somebody walking behind you or I would die a lot because, you know, I didn't know someone was behind me."
Murphy spent time as a radar technician in the Navy and always wanted to introduce radar into the gaming world. After testing the concept on a focus group, he knew it would be a success.
"There's definitely a big unmet need in the gaming community that we can fill with Audio Radar," Murphy said. "There's no other device like this, and we believe it is just a simple yet sophisticated solution for that giant unmet need."
Murphy said he legally couldn't reveal whether he has signed a deal yet with a major gaming company.
A crowd-funding Indiegogo campaign for Audio Radar will launch on Oct. 15 with the hopes of taking the product to the market.
This story was originally published by Ryan Cummings on Scripps station WXMI in Grand Rapids, Michigan.