Imagine having your own personal sound bubble. You listen to your favorite tunes or play loud computer games—and no one else can hear what you’re hearing.
That’s possible now with “sound beaming” technology. It’s a futuristic audio manipulation made possible by Noveto Systems. The Israeli company is debuting a product called the SoundBeamer 1.0. The desktop device beams sound directly to a listener’s ears without the need for headphones. The sound is so close it feels like it’s inside your ears while also in front, above, and behind them. The device looks like a speaker, but no one else can hear the audio.
Noveto says the device has plenty of practical uses. Office workers could listen to music or conference calls without interrupting colleagues. You could play games, movies, or music without disturbing the rest of your family. And with no headphones, you can still hear other sounds in the room clearly.
How does the device work? The technology uses a 3-D sensing module. First, the module locates, locks in on, and tracks your ear position. Then the device sends audio via ultrasonic waves (sound waves with frequencies higher than humans can hear) to create sound pockets just barely outside your ears. Sound can be heard in stereo (“layered” audio that seems to come from multiple sources) or a spatial 3-D mode that creates 360-degree sound around the listener.
One setting even allows sound to follow listeners around when they move their heads. Another makes it possible to move out of the beam’s path and hear nothing at all.
But even CEO Christophe Ramstein has a hard time putting the concept into words. “The brain doesn’t understand what it doesn’t know,” he says.
The concept of sound beaming is not new. But Noveto was the first to launch the technology as a branded consumer product. Ramstein says a smaller version of the prototype will be on the market by Christmas 2021.
This technology has some amazing uses. But as with every invention, there’s room for people to use it for ill. Because of our fallen nature, we humans often misuse good gifts. Imagine someone using the technology as a weapon to hurt or confuse others. It would be distressing to suddenly hear sounds or commands that no one else can hear. The technology itself isn’t bad. But we do need to think carefully about how we use these inventions responsibly and lovingly.