When guitar maker Paul Reed Smith strums one of his creations, the vibrations of its strings are greater than just the audible notes and harmonies they emit.
Smith and his father, former government mathematician Jack Smith, first demonstrated those complex harmonics more than a decade ago. Technology they developed and patented produces an intricate picture of the layers of waves that come together to produce a unique sound, illustrating why a single note doesn’t sound the same on different instruments.
But it can do more than that. After his father died nine years ago, the younger Smith realized that in the same way it measures sound in precise detail, the technology also can analyze images, video and, eventually, any other type of wave.
That realization is the foundation for Digital Harmonic, Smith’s new side business that he foresees could one day rival his first brainchild, PRS Guitars. It’s a far cry from producing custom guitars for famous musicians. Possible applications include improving medical imaging and making it safer for patients, analyzing intelligence data, and enhancing radar images for the military.
“If this technology can reveal all this data that’s in these images, the hope with scientists and with us is that we’ll be able to reduce the radiation that you would get in, say, a CAT scan or a stent operation and even get a better image,” Smith said. “Reducing radiation is a pretty hot topic in medicine right now, and we believe we have technology that’s going to help with that.”