Israeli Start-up Touts Smart Audio Delivered As Sound Bubbles To Signage Viewers

An Israeli company has started touting digital signage as a good use case for its smart audio technology, which uses computer vision to detect faces, accurately position ears, and send discrete sound bubbles with audio messaging that only the viewer hears.

It’s a variation on those focused speaker systems that have been around digital signage for many years, but the pitch here is that the new tech removes limitations.

Digital signage, it appears, is an opportunistic sideline for Noveto, which is focused mainly on home gaming and entertainment use-cases. The Tel Aviv start-up is still in R&D, but says it plans to be in mass production by next year. It has a partnership with contract manufacturing giant Foxconn to make devices that would look roughly like TV soundbars.

Says a press release:

Noveto Smart Audio proprietary smart algorithm, sophisticated beam-forming techniques, face detection, tracking capabilities and state of the art DSP engines, enable it to locate the position of the user’s ears in space and beam acoustic energy to create tiny sound bubbles next to the user’s ears. When the user’s head is moving the sound bubbles will dynamically follow the user.

Noveto is controlling the acoustic waves generated from its unique device with the first-ever dedicated chipset handling numerous audio channels, enabling the Noveto sound system to create full stereo, surround and 3D sound.

Noveto’s technology enables sound to be dynamically steered and focused. Hence, each user in a confined space (be it a living room, conference room, vehicle or any public space) can experience hers/his own audio content without using isolating headphones or sound polluting traditional audio speakers. Noveto Smart Audio reduces the sound pollution by 90%.

Noveto diagram
The system locates the position of your ears in space and beams acoustic energy to create tiny sound bubbles next to your ears. When you move your head the sound bubbles will follow you.

Daniel Jammer, the Chairman of Noveto, said: “The successful tape out of our first chip is a vote of confidence in our brilliant R&D team, and I thank all of them for their everlasting efforts. I wish to take this opportunity to thank our partners from Foxconn for their friendship, dedication and guidance and I am certain that together we will launch a product that will hit the markets with great innovation and having a huge success.”

As mentioned at the top, focused sound is not new to digital signage, and the uptake has been pretty limited. The “traditional” systems, if you want to call them that, have been everything from speakers in boxes to domes to wafers that look like ceiling tiles. These speakers narrow the sound beam, but need to be installed nearby, usually up above. That adds cost and complexity.

The biggest reasons audio is not used in many to most scenarios are:

  • it’s not needed for the application (like menuboards and FIDS);
  • the venue dynamics are all wrong (like too noisy, too cavernous, too many people);
  • and in places like shops and offices, endlessly repeating audio drives staffers INSANE. Many speakers have been murdered by pens and wires cut by low-wage store associates who … COULD … NOT … TAKE IT … ANYMORE.

If you use generalized audio, everybody nearby hears it, over and over. I have seen applications that ask users, notably in museums and galleries, to put on headphones, and that’s a big No for me and just about anybody who pays even passing attention to germs and hygiene.

I’m not sure this smart audio tech would work or be needed for a bunch of digital signage scenarios, and think in many cases that good, minimalist creative does the business. However, there are many 1 to 1 interactive applications in retail and public venues – like product look-ups, explainers and wayfinders – where complementary, discrete audio would be useful.

I think of things like confusing ticketing kiosks at subway and rail stations – looking at you BART system – where it is easy to get hung up on what to do next. Audio that only the user could hear, that says in a selected language, “Now do this or that …” would be quite useful.

How many parking ticket machines, the poster children for bad user design (start at top right, now the next thing is bottom left, then look right, etc), would benefit from audio prompts?

Same goes for wayfinding or directories. Even simple scripting that pushes audio prompts, if the user doesn’t do anything for a few seconds, might help move things along.

I could also imagine how this tech could pair well with voice AI applications that are touted as coming to signage.

Will be interesting to see demos … somewhere, at some point.