You’re not hearing things: Viral Laurel vs. Yanny debate is an audio brain teaser

The internet loves a good debate — and three years after a photo created a blue-gold dress divide nearly as wide as the blue-red political gap comes a recording of a robotic voice saying Laurel. Or Yanny. But which one is it? The audio recording is making the viral rounds across social media platforms after originating on Reddit this week.

The four-second clip is simply a robotic voice repeating one name several times. But depending on who you ask, some hear Laurel and others hear Yanny. And still more hear Laurel one time, and Yanny another. So is it robot trickery or is the internet hearing things?

The answer, acoustic professionals suggest, isn’t that you are hearing things, but that you are listening to things. Like the photo of the dress that created confusion by manipulating what the brain expects to see, the discrepancies between the two different interpretations of the same audio clip have similar origins. By using similar sounds and leaving gaps in a low-quality recording, the brain fills in the rest of the details, which is allowing people to hear different things from the same recording.

“Part of the answer is the difference between listening and hearing. Most people think of hearing as occurring in the ear, but hearing and listening actually occur in the brain,” Douglas Beck, an audiologist working with Oticon Inc. hearing aids and the magazine Hearing Review, told National Geographic. “Hearing is simply perceiving sound. That is, you can hear while you’re asleep, and so in that regard, hearing is passive. Listening is attributing meaning to sound.”

The similar sounds between the two words and the noise in the low-quality recording have the brain trying to fill in the gaps. Depending on how your brain does this, you might be hearing Laurel or Yanny. The result is an audio brain teaser like the Rubin’s Vase, that image where you can see either a vase or two faces depending on if your brain sees the positive or negative space first.

Frequency and pitch could also play a role in how the recording is interpreted, others suggest. Just as Photoshoppers worked on the dress, social media users are taking the recording into audio software. One pitch-shift adjustment makes it easy to hear both words with the manipulated pitches.

While you may hear something different than the person sitting next to you, there is a scientific explanation — so try not to let your support for either team Laurel or team Yanny ruin a friendship.

Product Review

The Bose Frames stuff speakers into sunglasses for a brilliant set of shades

With the Frames, Bose is digging up fertile new ground in the somewhat stagnant audio genre. But can these audio sunglasses offer enough versatility to make them worth their $200 price tag?
Home Theater

What is Dolby Atmos Music, and how can you experience it?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound format that creates immersive, 3D soundtracks to make movies come alive. But the same technology is also being adopted for music creation, and it's a game-changer. Here's everything you need to know.
News

What net neutrality? FCC head Ajit Pai would rather regulate Facebook

Ajit Pai isn't known for being a fan of regulation, but in a Senate hearing on May 12, he called Silicon Valley tech companies a threat in response to a question about net neutrality.
Computing

How to watch AMD’s E3 Next Horizon Gaming press conference

AMD is scheduled to deliver a press conference to kick off E3 on Monday, June 10. The presentation is set to focus on gaming, and we expect to hear more about the company's new Navi RX 5000 graphics cards.
Mobile

Whether you speak best with emojis, GIFs, or words, you can chat with Kik

The easy-to-use Kik has the look and feel of an SMS text messenger, but with plenty of appealing perks. With only a user name as an ID, Kik lets you exchange messages, photos, videos, sketches, emoji, and more with others on the platform.
Smart Home

Facebook says new Portal video-chat devices are coming in the fall

A Facebook executive has revealed the company is gearing up to refresh its video-calling smart displays later this year. The Portal and Portal+ devices launched to lukewarm reviews toward the end of last year.
Social Media

With its latest tool, Facebook is out for blood (donations, that is)

Facebook users in the U.S. will soon start seeing notifications when area blood centers are in need of donations. The newly expanded Facebook Blood Donation tool mixes alerts with details on where to donate, along with how to invite…
Social Media

Here's how to unblock someone on Facebook when you've had a change of heart

Maybe you were a little too hasty blocking that one person on Facebook ... or maybe you just want to do a little spying to see what they're up to. Either way, you can fix the situation easily. Here's how to unblock someone on Facebook.
Social Media

Need a new Identity? Here's how to change your name on Facebook

There comes a time when everyone must change their online name for one reason or another. Check out our quick guide on how to change your name on Facebook in under five minutes without all the expected fuss or digital hoops to jump through.
Social Media

Will this deepfake of a power-hungry Zuckerberg make Facebook rethink fake news?

Just how committed is Facebook to earlier statements on leaving deepfake videos intact but demoted? A fake video of Mark Zuckerberg proclaiming power over your data has lasted for four days on the platform.
Social Media

Here's how to link your Instagram, Facebook accounts for social syncing

Instagram and Facebook go hand in hand. Here's how you can make the most of the superior integration offered by the two social media behemoths, which should help your pics gain more exposure in the long run.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make your own animated GIF to share

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Social Media

Facebook will pay to spy on you, but you can make more money elsewhere

Facebook's new Study app will track how you use your phone and provide that data to the social media giant. The company will even pay you for it — but likely not very much, especially compared to the market rate for your personal…
Social Media

Zuckerberg may have known more about Facebook’s privacy scandal than we thought

In the midst of an ongoing investigation into Facebook's Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, a new report suggests that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have known about the company's much-criticized approach to privacy.