LONDON (AP) – Imagine a world where you move around in your own personal sound bubble. Listen to your favorite tunes, play noisy computer games, watch a movie, or get navigation instructions in your car, all without disturbing those around you.
This is the possibility offered by the “sound beam”, a new futuristic audio technology from Noveto Systems, an Israeli company. On Friday, it will launch a desktop device that streams sound directly to a listener without the need for headphones.
The company provided The Associated Press with an exclusive demo of its SoundBeamer 1.0 desktop prototype ahead of its launch on Friday.
The listening sensation is straight out of a science fiction movie. The 3-D sound is so close it feels like you are inside your ears, in front of, above and behind them.
Noveto expects the device to have many practical uses, ranging from allowing office workers to listen to music or conference calls without interrupting coworkers, to letting someone play a game, movie or music without disturbing loved ones.
The lack of headphones means that it is possible to clearly hear other sounds in the room.
The technology uses a 3D sensing module and locates and tracks the position of the ear by sending audio through ultrasonic waves to create pockets of sound through the user’s ears. The sound can be heard in stereo or in spatial 3D mode which creates 360-degree sound around the listener, the company said.
The demo includes nature video clips of swans on a lake, buzzing bees and a chattering stream, where the listener feels completely transported into the scene.
But even CEO Christophe Ramstein struggles to put the concept into words. “The brain doesn’t understand what it doesn’t know,” he says.
During a demonstration of Noveto performed via Zoom from Tel Aviv, SoundBeamer product manager Ayana Wallwater could not hear the sound of gunfire over a game demo.
That’s the point. But she appreciates the feedback from people who are trying the software for the first time.
“Most people just say, ‘Wow, I really don’t believe it,’” she said.
“You don’t believe it because it sounds like a speaker, but no one else can hear it… it supports you and you are in the middle of it all. It is happening around you.
By changing a parameter, sound can follow a listener as they move their head. It is also possible to step out of the beam path and not hear anything at all, which creates a surreal experience.
“You don’t have to tell the device where you are. It is not being broadcast to a specific location, ”Wallwater said.
“It follows you wherever you go. So it’s personally for you – follow you, play whatever you want in your head.
“This is what we dream of,” she adds. “A world where we get the sound you want. You don’t need to disturb others, and others are not disturbed by your sound. But you can still interact with them. “
After his first listening experience, Ramstein wondered how he was different from other audio devices.
“I thought, ‘Yeah, but is that the same with headphones?’ No, because I have the freedom and it’s like I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do. And I have these sounds playing in my head because something would be happening here which is hard to explain because we have no reference for it.
While the concept of sound streaming is not new, Noveto pioneered the technology and its SoundBeamer 1.0 desktop device will be the first branded consumer product.
Ramstein said a “smaller, sexier” version of the prototype would be ready to hit the market in time for Christmas 2021.
“You know, I was trying to think about how we compare sound radiation to all the other inventions in history. And I think the only one that came to my mind was… the first time I tried the iPod, I was like, “Oh, my God. What is that?’ I think sound radiation is something as disruptive as that. There is something to be said about this that does not exist before. There is the freedom to use it. And it’s really amazing.