Jacob Emory Bullin
30 November 2018
A New Way to Listen
Sound is a huge part of our daily lives whether listening to music while riding a bike or using hands-free calling while driving down the road, there are many situations where we also need to be aware of our surroundings. Headphones and earbuds often limit that ability to do so, but what if we could listen to music or take a phone call and still be fully aware of our surroundings? An Israeli start-up company called Noveto has been hard at work to make this happen. “… Headphones without headphones.” (From the grapevine) That’s right, imagine listening to music with no headphones, but only you can hear it!
Noveto was founded in 2011 and has since been developing “Sowlo”, a standalone device that looks similar to a small Bluetooth speaker. They also are planning to implement the technology into other devices such as TV’s and laptops. Over the past several years, other companies have looked at innovating and developing new tech in the audio industry. While companies like Oticon and Starkey been working to provide better hearing devices (like hearing aids and cochlear implants), Qualcomm and Noveto have been working on the listener’s experience (Medium). Qualcomm has been focusing on aspects of 3D soundscape but Noveto has developed the idea of using focused audio to bring new innovations and transform the headphone experience over the next several years.
How are they achieving headphone-less headphones? Well, the process is relatively simple. 3D sensors detect and track the position of your ears continually. The audio is then processed through the Sowlo unit or an integrated system in a computer or car and speakers send the “sound … directly to your ears, and your ears only.” using focused acoustical energy (Noveto website). This is entirely different from what is known as directional audio. Directional audio directs sound towards the user, meaning anyone who is also in the direction of the audio can also hear it. Noveto’s focused audio directs the sound in a bubble to your ears so that you are the only person who can hear it. “It’s steerable” as Tomer Shani, a cofounder of Noveto put it (Business Insider). This is shown in a video recorded from a broadcast of “Next”, a technology show in Israel, when the host holds a microphone next to his ear (Noveto Systems’ Channel, youtube). The microphone picks up some of the audio when it is held almost directly next to the host’s ears, but when it is moved a few inches away, the audio is no longer heard.
In 2016, Noveto debuted their technology to selected media groups and a few first-tier companies (Noveto Website). Earlier this year Noveto brought Sowlo to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada to show the world what they have been working on for almost seven years. (From the Grapevine). Noveto plans to release the first consumer product to the market in the fall of 2019 (Business Insider).
Noveto’s focused audio system could potentially revolutionize the headphone industry as well as hands-free systems that are used in the automotive industry. Imagine being able to take a private phone call without even having to touch a button. Based on the product unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018, an implemented version of Noveto’s technology will allow the kids to watch different movies in the back seat of a vehicle while a passenger reads undisturbed and the driver takes phone calls or receives directions. Alarm clocks could also receive this technology, granting them the ability to be heard by only one person so that the other remains completely asleep (from the grapevine). The company is already able to send audio to more than one person but are able to send entirely different streams to each person. “So one person can, for example, get an English stream, while…” their “…friend from Mexico hears the Spanish version.” (from the grapevine)
As an avid music lover and listener, I love to use my headphones and I will often drift off into my own world and do not always hear the things going on around me. I almost never notice someone calling my name unless they are directly in front of me where I can see them. With Noveto’s technology I would be able to enjoy listening to music and still be able to hear what is going on around me. while not disturbing my family members who do not always want to hear what I am listening to.