Published April 08, 2009 –

Today’s economic recession is one of the best times for smaller Canadian businesses to doggedly pursue new inventions say experts in innovation.

That’s because most of the big players are acting very cautious, cutting back and sticking to the basics, rather than taking a risk with a pricey new product launch.

“The General Motors of the world won’t be innovating today — so small firms have an opportunity to get their foot in door,” said Av Utukuri, president and chief technology officer of Nytric Ltd. Based in Mississauga, Ont., Nytric that helps businesses commercialize innovative products.

“Canadians are very casual and relaxed about our success,” Utukuri said, noting that such an attitude could dampen innovation.
IT Business article thumbnailBut one Canadian business-owner whose spirit of innovation remains as powerful as ever is James Hildebrandt, founder of Psyko Audio Labs, based in Calgary.

Nine years ago, with a new idea on how headphones could be redesigned, Hildebrandt began researching and developing how the ear absorbs sound.

He used his findings to develop a pair of surround-sound headphones to be used while playing computer video games.

The headphones won’t be available until May or June this year, but they are already garnering a lot of international attention, winning two awards for best headphones at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

“It’s a bit like a rookie going to the World Series and hitting two home runs,” Hildebrandt said. “We didn’t expect that kind of attention.”

The Psyko 5.1 headphones mimic the way your brain absorbs sound by putting the speakers on the bridge of the headphone rather than the ear cover, and creating a sound field around each ear, which reflects off the ear the way it should in a room.

When sound comes down the hollow tubes over your head, signals are sent to the front and rear of your ears. So the sound is heard from ahead or behind, based on where the footsteps or gun shots are coming from in relation to your avatar in the video game.

Developing the product has taken almost a decade, he said. “There are a billion details that you need to work out and people will warn that it is more work than you expect, but it doubled and tripled what I thought it would take.”

Meanwhile, Hildebrandt’s “to do” list is seemingly endless – from finessing the product to taking care of legalities, government regulations and public relations.

The headphones are being sold on the international market, with many American and Asian gamers pre-ordering off their site.

By Michelle Macleod