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Start-Up Creating Audio Technology from UC Davis Research

Dysonics chief technologist Robert Dalton demonstrates the company's audio app and headphone device

Dysonics chief technologist Robert Dalton demonstrates the company’s audio app and headphone device (University of California, Davis).

A two year-old company spun-off from University California in Davis is designing a new type of audio experience based on research in the school’s engineering department. Dysonics Inc., located in San Francisco, was founded by three Davis engineering faculty members, bringing to market more than a decade of research on multi-dimensional audio from the university’s Center for Image Processing and Integrated Computing lab.

The lab conducts multi-disciplinary research combining computer science, physics, and psychology with engineering to capture and reproduce sound in three dimensions, much like visual images. Three-dimensional sound seeks to interpret audio coming from left and right directions, but also the sound’s elevation and range dimensions.

Much of the lab’s research was pioneered by emeritus professor and Dysonics co-founder Ralph Algazi, joined in the founding by Davis researchers Robert Dalton and Richard Duda. Algazi is the company’s president and Dalton serves as chief technologist.

Dysonics’s first products applying this research are a smartphone app called Rondo Player and RondoMotion, a sensor that attaches to existing headphones. Rondo Player is currently offered as a free iPhone app, although the Dysonics Web site says the app is in development for other platforms. The app, says the company, enables music to have the intensity, depth, and energy of live music now missing on mobile devices.

RondoMotion is a motion sensor that attaches to headphones and adjusts the audio to recreate changes made by head movements when listening in person. The device — for which the company is taking orders but not yet shipping — is configured to work with the Rondo Player app, and thus works with later iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Dysonics says the combination of RondoMotion and app give a virtual-reality quality to the audio experience.

Dysonics was founded in March 2011 and started out at Davis’s Engineering Translational Technology Center, an incubator for spin-off enterprises from the engineering department. The university, which holds the patents on the discoveries, originally licensed the lab’s audio technology to an existing company that decided not to take it to market. Davis then took back the license and relicensed the technology to Dysonics.

Initial funding for the company came from angel investors, which the university says enabled Dysonics to become the first company to graduate from the incubator. Dysonics is now holding a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to finance development of RondoMotion.

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