Innovators in the tech world have spent years trying to become the first to win over the masses with a private listening experience that doesn’t require traditional headphones. Sony’s Future Lab group tried it in 2016 with its “Concept N” product, which used miniature directional speakers and looked like a futuristic necklace; sunglasses brands like Zungle have used bone-conduction technology to get sound directly into your head; and the Elon Musk-owned Neuralink is reportedly working on literal brain implants in the form of electronic chips. This week, another contender jumped into the mix.
Noveto, based in Petah-Tikva, Israel, has announced plans to debut what it calls the SoundBeamer 1.0 speaker on November 13th. Unlike the products mentioned above, there’s nothing wearable about this concept; the idea is to replace desktop tech and other stationary devices. Using a 3D sensing module that locates the ears and directs ultrasonic waves, the SoundBeamer 1.0 creates small bubbles of 360-degree sound in the spaces where headphone speakers would normally go. It’s important to note that these bubbles do not completely cancel out external noise — but the company say that’s intentional. “We’re really against the social isolation that headphones cause,” former Noveto CEO Brian Wallace told CNBC back in 2018, when the company was in a more developmental phase.
If you’re at the office, Noveto says its device will let you play your music without wearing headphones and possibly missing a call or a coworker coming up from behind to ask you a question. Alternatively, if you’re working from home and video conferencing, the product could eliminate the echo effect that occurs when speakers are used. If you’re exercising on a stationary bike and sweat is making your earbuds fall out — but you don’t want to publicize the sounds of your workout — here’s a possible solution. If you’re in the car for a long drive with friends and everyone wants to listen to different music, you can do that, too, without a cacophony of noise pollution. And perhaps most intriguingly, Noveto’s speakers could let video gamers indulge in a highly immersive audio experience without uncomfortable gear.
One main drawback here is that the speaker is relatively clunky and it’s not the most mobile offering. You wouldn’t, say, take your SoundBeamer on the subway or on a run outdoors. It’s difficult to judge how popular the product will be when it finally becomes widely available. For now, Noveto says it plans to release the SoundBeamer widely in December 2021.