A Car Stereo With No Speakers?
Ever sat in the passenger seat of a car and bemoaned the driver’s choice in music? There really is nothing worse than settling in for a long journey only to be met with a style of music you just can’t tolerate. When trapped within a personal concert of somebody else’s making, that monstrous walk you sought to avoid suddenly seems an attractive proposition.
Long suffering companions will then delight in the news that SEAT are striving to introduce speakerless stereos; better still this technology would allow for different tunes to be enjoyed within the same vehicle. Yes, really.
What in theory seems implausible is - according to the Spanish automakers – anything but. They hope to prove as much within the next year and, as if to affirm their confidence, have set about prototyping the concept.
So what do we know about this, a supposed audio revolution? Well, not a lot sadly. Indeed, those spearheading the operation are keeping tight-lipped about its inner workings, only fuelling understandable scepticism.
Dubbed ‘dynamic focused sound’ the functionality will stem from a collaboration between SEAT and, significantly, an Israeli mobility start-up called Noveto.
Their union is part of the car manufacturer’s broader XPLORA project, one birthing partnerships with no less than eight companies and stakeholders from the Jewish state. The hope come expectation is the sharing of ideas will result in technological breakthroughs as revolutionary as they are incredulous. New solutions and business models will benefit the Barcelona based brand in the long term.
The SEAT-Noveto marriage was met with much fanfare last month. Amidst the mutual back slapping however was a crucial footnote; that initial conclusions into music systems devoid of speakers and headphones will arrive as early as December 2019.
In confirming the agreement SEAT Digital Officer Fabian Simmer made clear a collective ambition to be ‘a driver of innovation in the development of this kind of tech solution.’
On reflection the appeal of Noveto was quite obvious. The tech wizards are after all fresh from unveiling their widely heralded My Virtual Headphones development, vindication of sorts for projects of its kind.
Choosing CES 2018 as his platform, co-owner Toner Shami demonstrated how sensors can track head movement. Remarkably, they then conspire to create two virtual ‘sound bubbles’ around the ears.
Audio is then fed through to a digital signal processing engine, from which transducers wirelessly focus sound directly into the eardrums - courtesy of our magic bubbles of course. Crucially however nobody else within the vicinity is privy to the same noise.
The old mantra of being seen and not heard is certainly apt in this case. Take a look…
Having proven the concept Noveto must now go one better and see it realised within a vehicle. Acknowledging the scale of the task, they will only commit to having it completed ‘soon’ though next Christmas’ sharing of conclusions has ratcheted up excitement and pressure in equal measure.
If the SEAT-Noveto hybrid can deliver the benefits will be plentiful. As well as the aforementioned difference in playlists, kids can be entertained with little to no interaction from adults. Indeed, Disney movies for instance may be enjoyed in the backseat, while hard rock inspired headbanging in the front. As deterrents go, it may just spare them exposure to explicit lyrics!
Similarly, phone calls can be taken by certain passengers without disrupting the listening pleasure of others. In essence the beaming of soundwaves directly into an individual’s ears will facilitate a degree of privacy amidst a shared space. Make no mistake, this really would mark a revolution.
Predictably perhaps debate has raged ever since SEAT announced their intentions. A thirst for knowledge has seen car and electrical boffins alike speculate as to how the prototype will work. For their part Noveto are giving less than nothing away, meaning a waiting game and with it all kinds of conjecture ensues.
What’s undeniable is the rise in driverless technology appears to have triggered an arms race of sorts, with manufacturers competing to become originators. Speakerless stereos, when they arrive, will certainly make a big noise. Or not as it happens.