Noise pollution could become a thing of the past with the introduction of directional sound technology that projects sound waves within a column of air.
Headed for the home audio market, the technology developed by Parametric Sound fires sound waves within a 75cm-wide air column meaning that only those directly in its path can hear the sound.
“The aim is to be able to send different audio streams to different people using a Kinect-like system recognising people sitting on a sofa, without them having to wear headphones,” explained spokesman David Lowey, demonstrating the technology to the Guardian at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas.
Cuts through ambient noise
The HyperSound System is currently being used commercially in museums and retailers to provide a spotlight of sound, where passersby can only hear the audio commentary being played when standing in the right space.
The audio produced by the system cuts through ambient noise, sounding like it is coming from within the listener’s head, as demonstrated in a very noisy booth at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.
Lowey explained that HyperSound is a work in progress with a couple of innovation hurdles to be overcome before consumer-focused applications become viable. However, the company is working on several applications including assisted hearing, where the vocal track on a television programme is projected at a higher volume to the ears of the hearing impaired without causing noise pollution for others in the house or room.
The surface of a TV or tablet could become the speaker
One of the current challenges of the HyperSound technology is the lack of low-end bass the system is capable of projecting. The current implementation produces clear and rich high and mid tones, but requires a subwoofer to provide non-directional bass, limiting its usefulness to a general consumer.
The technology is not limited to traditional speaker systems. Lowey explained that HyperSound uses a flat plate to create the sound waves and that the surface of a TV or tablet could become the speaker, projecting sound directly out of the screen without the need to additional speakers and lowering the ambient noise pollution of devices.
“For gaming, we see HyperSound as a way of isolating the sound to your ears so that your wife or neighbours don’t kill for your playing games in the middle of the night,” said Lowey.
Turtle Beach, the gaming company which recently bought Parametric Sound, will roll out the technology into consumer products once a certain level of sound quality is achieved, which is expected to take around three years. Assisted hearing applications are expected to come on sale during 2015.
• At CES 2014, LG announced a ‘talking’ washing mashing that is able to answer your text messages
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Image: Parametric Sound