Sound Beaming Could Replace Your Headphones

Look ma, no headphones

Key Takeaways

  • The SoundBeamer is a new gadget that sends sounds to your ears without headphones.
  • The Israeli company that makes the device says users will be able to hear other sounds in a room clearly.
  • One early review of SoundBeamer called the invention "straight out of a sci-fi movie."
The front of the SoundBeamer 1.0 in black and resting at an angle pointing up
Noveto Systems

A new device called SoundBeamer sends sound directly to your ears without the need for headphones.

Israeli company Noveto says it plans to release its first consumer device, the SoundBeamer 1.0, late next year. The desktop gadget uses ultrasonic waves to place sound just outside the ears, so even though it looks like a small speaker, users won’t hear anything coming out. On its website, the company explains how SoundBeamer uses a built-in 3D sensing module to track the position of your ears in real time, then sends the ultrasonic waves to "converge into small pockets of sound" near your ears.

"The biggest advantage is that you don’t need to tell the device where you are because it’s not streaming to one specific place, but follows you wherever you go," Joseph Ferdinando, founder of HotHeadTech, said in an email interview. "This is what most people dream of: A world where people can get music wherever they want."

No Headphones Required

Since the SoundBeamer doesn’t require headphones, users will be able to hear other sounds in the room.

"Without the use of a headphone, you’ll get to listen to music or play video games loudly without others around you being disturbed," Israel Gaudette, founder of SEO site Link Tracker Pro, said in an email interview. "What’s awesome is you can still hear and interact with them clearly. With the absence of headphones, you’ll have all the freedom [of] moving around. There is no need to stay in one place; wherever you go, the sound follows you."

The sound could be even better than what most headphones can produce. Users can listen in stereo or a spatial 3D mode that creates 360 degrees of sound, the company said. According to one early review of the device, the 3D sound is so close it "feels like it’s inside your ears while also in front, above, and behind them."

Noveto CEO Christophe Ramstein apparently finds it hard to explain the effect his device has. "The brain doesn’t understand what it doesn’t know," he said.

Great for Video Conferencing?

One use for the SoundBeamer will be for video conferencing, Noveto claims.

"Set up a SoundBeaming device with your computer and you’ll be able to make video and audio calls privately and without creating excessive noise pollution—all without the need to wear any physical device that cuts you off from your team or environment," according to its website.

Noveto isn’t the only one pursuing sound beaming technology, though. The Sonic Arts Research and Development group at the University of California San Diego has developed a patented audio beaming technology to send individualized sounds to users. Sound beams are far more precise than regular speakers, the group says on its website, meaning they can be individually controlled and directed with great accuracy. In one possible scenario, beams could be used to direct equalized audio to each person, or at a volume adjusted to each listener’s preference.

"Multiple beams could also be employed simultaneously, so that one listener hears a German audio track, the second hears a Spanish audio track, and the rest hear an English audio track," the website says. "These audio tracks would all be heard with perfect clarity with negligible overlap."

Rear view of the SoundBeamer 1.0 in black and resting on its stand at an angle
Noveto Systems

Comhear Inc., a San Diego-based audio technology company, announced in 2018 the launch of its Kickstarter campaign for YARRA 3DX™, a 3D-audio soundbar using technology licensed from the Sonic Arts group. The campaign raised over $1 million according to its Indiegogo page. Whatever happened to this fabulous sounding product? It’s hard to say since the page seems to indicate that it never went past the prototype stage.

If Noveto’s SoundBeamer ever actually reaches store shelves it could be a gamechanger for listening in private and crowded spaces. Until then, users will have to stick with their trusty headphones and hope they’re not disturbing others around them.