Pranav Venuprasad of India is one of the top students from universities around the world taking part in the Mitacs Globalink program.

Unique project creates concert hall experience through headphones

Not many people get excited about sound quite like Pranav Venuprasad does.

Not many people get excited about sound quite like Pranav Venuprasad does.

The 21-year-old is currently working on a unique project at the University of Victoria to develop an audio system that creates a concert hall experience through headphones.

“The thing about audio projects is finally you get a working product that you can showcase. That gives me a lot of pleasure when you get a final product that’s working,” Venuprasad said. “You can see what is working with math and calculations.”

The internship that Venuprasad is participating in is part of Mitacs Globalink, a program in which top students from universities around the world are paired with one of 45 professors from across Canada to work on 12-week research projects. Using a sophisticated algorithm, students are then paired with professors to complete the projects.

“Mitacs Globalink is a program that is designed as building up Canada’s international Rolodex. We don’t have internally all of the top talent that we need for industry, academia and government. We’re too small of a population,” said Eric Bosco, chief of business development and partnerships with the program. “The whole point of the program is to build up contacts with the up and coming talent that’s going to be critical to us in the coming years.”

This year, there were more than 1,600 student applicants and 2,600 research project ideas from Canadian professors. In May, more than 550 international students began the program in Canada, including Venuprasad.

With Dr. Peter Driessen at a UVic lab, Venuprasad will be working on a project called headphone sound externalization to create a system that amplifies recorded sound through headphones to provide the listener with an “out-of-head” concert experience as they listen to music.

“Usually when we listen to music through our headphones, it appears as if the sound comes from inside our head. This might not always be the best experience for the listener,” said Venuprasad, who just finished his third-year in electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, India. “What we’re trying to do is make the sound appear like it’s coming from the outside like say in a concert hall.”

Venuprasad will be responsible for experiments and measurements, which will eventually be used to create a simulation of the system, while Driessen will oversee the project.

Driessen, who has worked with other international students through Mitacs Globalink, said the program opens doors for young students.

“It’s important for international students to give them the opportunity to see other countries . . . it’s good for them to be exposed to the wide world out there,” said Driessen, adding many of the students he’s mentored in the past had never left their home country.

“For the professors it’s good because you get free students who work for 12 weeks and they’re good students because they’re vetted carefully. You generally get good results even in a short 12-week time period.”

Venuprasad hopes to return to Canada to pursue his masters and focus his career on audio signal processing in the future.