Elina V Clavelli
A (Virtually) Quiet Place
As early as next year, you can escape the wired discomfort and bulky heaviness of regular headphones. Wires may be on their way out already given Bluetooth technology, but “focused audio” devices will take it a leap forward. Noveto, an Israeli startup founded in 2011, is bringing your futuristic dreams to 2019 by creating and distributing virtual headphones. Noveto uses technology that sends focused sound waves directly to your ears, without you wearing actual headphones or any appliance at all.
Even if you are not a tech enthusiast, the appeal of virtual headphones is there.
If you are lucky enough to work in an office environment that allows you to wear traditional headphones while you type away in your cubicle, you may feel a bit less lucky when you inadvertently ignore your boss calling out to you from her office. If you are a parent, surely you could take a break from the never-ending Disney soundtrack your children have on repeat in the car, while your little ones still enjoy it. Back in the office, you can use the privacy while on a conference call, without actually being isolated from the outside world.
Isolation is exactly what virtual headphones aim to defeat.
Noveto’s use of technology intends to give you the best of both worlds – a personalized audio listening experience, combined with awareness of your surroundings. Let’s talk about the actual technology here.
A standalone device that looks like a Bluetooth speaker can emit focused audio directly to your ears. Any device that can make sound, such as a computer monitor or a smartphone, can also have Noveto’s technology built in. Unlike “directional audio,” focused audio is “steerable.” That is, the audio can follow you around. Noveto achieves this by using 3D tracking technology to locate your ears and deliver audio directly to them.
You would be the only person listening to the desired audio, while maintaining awareness of the surrounding noise, and no one else would hear the sound coming from Noveto’s device. With nothing but a sound bar and a camera to track your head movements, this virtual headphone technology delivers audio right to your ear.
The applications for the technology are vast. Coming back to an earlier example of your children asking you to blast “Let It Go” in the car, how awesome would it be if they were the only ones to hear it? That would be a rhetorical question to the readers with children. If you are young and carefree, listening to the latest track on your wireless Beats, you might still experience the discomfort of having on-ear headphones. This is not to mention being cut off from the surrounding world.
I need not to elaborate to the developers, who listen to music in the office all day long while they code, how much less awkward it would be to maintain awareness of their boss beckoning them away from their life-altering work. Same goes for the CEO, who has to tune into a conference call, but must also lend a listening ear to their employees. Figuratively speaking.
Last but not least, we arrive at augmented reality or virtual reality. VR has been a staple of science fiction, without crossing over much into the real world, due to the bulkiness of the equipment and its price tags. Noveto’s technology provides the surround sound and an immersive experience that are the Holy Grail to VR enthusiasts.
Gamers, autonomous car proponents, and we the mere mortals can all see an application or two for this virtual headphone technology. At a cost of $249 to $299, we can have our music, video, games, or any other medium involving audio deliver sound right to our ears, thanks to Noveto’s invention. Just imagine, as early as mid-2019, you will listen to your favorite track on repeat, without wondering with embarrassment whether you taste in music is questioned by coworkers, friends, or family.