Company Builds Speakers That 'Beam' Sound Directly To Your Ears

The SoundBeamer prototype. Credit: Noveto

A company from Israel claims their new device can beam sound straight to you without using headphones, creating a bubble of 3D sound around your ears that other people cannot hear.

The system uses a sensor array to locate the position of your ears and find the area to target for the ‘pocket’ of sound. Ultrasonic waves then direct the sound to converge in a small pocket around your ears, creating a 3D experience that no one else can hear. Best of all, the device continues to track your head while you listen, so you continually hear the sound no matter how you move your head – as long as you are in sight of the device.

“When you are inside the bubble, you get the sound, the volume, the immersiveness of it,” said Ayana Wallwater, product manager of Noveto systems, in an AP video.

“It follows you wherever you go – it’s personally for you.” 

Noveto debuted its SoundBeamer 1.0 on November 13 and claims the technology will “transform how we experience audio.” Uses for the technology include gaming and movie watching to office work to not disturb colleagues. 

Noveto CEO and product manager explains the system to AP. Credit: Associated Press

So, how does ‘soundbeaming’ work? Well, although it has never been packaged into a personal ear-tracking device, this type of directed sound is not a new technology. Loudspeakers aim to spread as much sound as possible over the largest distance possible by using speaker membranes to create sound waves that diverge quickly (called diffraction). However, directional speakers want as little diffraction as possible, so they utilize ultrasonic speakers instead. Ultrasonic waves diffract significantly less than normal acoustic waves, allowing the sound to be directed to more precise locations. Think of it like light – a traditional speaker is like a floodlight, lighting up a large area, whilst ultrasonic speakers are like flashlights.

You cannot hear these ultrasonic waves, but when they impact an object (in the case of soundbeaming, the object is you) they convert to sound waves that you can hear.

Noveto states that the waves are generated by digital signal processing algorithms (DSPs), which is a set of mathmatical calculations that manipulate digital signals. Once generated, the ultrasonic waves are produced by a "custom-designed transducer array," which converts electrical energy into ultrasound vibrations that are then directed to your ears by a 3D sensor, where they are converted to acoustic sound.

Wallwater does state that, like all new technology, the SoundBeamer is not perfect and that in some situations someone else may hear a small level of noise coming from the target area. The user also needs a perfect line of site from your head to the speakers with no obstructions in the way, so the SoundBeamer probably won't work in times when you need lots of movement (you may wish to stick with headphones if you're heading out for a run). However, Noveto believe the new product will be a revolutionary development for home and office audio.

According to Ramstein, the product will be available for public purchase by Christmas 2021 – will you be picking up a futuristic soundbeamer for the holidays?

[H/T: Associated Press]

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