LONDON – Next generation headsets and glasses frames will be able to deliver audio in a compact way without using ear buds or sticking things in the ear canal, according to HiWave Technologies plc (Cambridge, England).
The company, which was previously known as NXT and started out as a developer of flat panel speakers, has developed an audio technology that can be integrated in the arms of spectacles and expects it to be taken up in glasses for 3-D gaming and sports and for multimedia headsets.
HiWave is currently demonstrating the Farina platform to potential customers and plans to be able to deliver the components of the audio technology in 4Q12.
The technology is a combination of bending wave transducers and driver electronics. When mounted onto the frames of spectacles, such as those used for 3-D gaming, the so-called Farina transducer stimulates the outer ear, or pinna, with a broadband audio signal, turning the spectacles into headsets. The user then hears via a fusion of airborne sound and soft tissue conduction into the inner ear.
The Farina ceramic vibrating beam measures 25-mm by 3-mm by 0.6-mm and delivers a multi-octave audio frequency range of sound.
A suite of patent grants and applications protects HiWave’s developments in the Farina transducer. These encompass techniques for delivering multi-octave audio from a vibrating beam of miniaturised dimensions, and the methodology for matching the mechanical impedance of ceramic materials to the soft tissues of the human ear.
"Glasses that combine visual and audio input to the user are going to be a huge opportunity for us," said James Lewis, CEO of HiWave, in a statement. He continued: "The goal for our customers will be to create eyewear that incorporates miniaturized display and audio components and are completely wireless. With Farina audio, the mini-transducers will be embedded into the arms of the glasses where they touch the ears and the amplifier circuitry will be a single chip that, together with the Bluetooth or other wireless chip, will disappear into the frame. Our low-power techniques minimize the battery size so that this to can become an integral part of the frame. I believe that technology will open the eyes of product planners, marketing executives and industrial designers to consumer electronics concepts that have never been possible to implement before."
Has anyone outside HiWave experienced this technology to describe the effectiveness of the approach? Obviously external speakers produce sound which passes through the open outer ear (pinna) to the eardrum. Such speakers also disturb everyone else in the vicinity. Since the pinna is relatively flexible, direct stimulation would not seem to be a very efficient way to convey sound of any significant frequency range to the inner ear.
Good development but the complete characterization of the device will let the user know about the response of the device. Generally this kind of device will throw high frequency sound loudly as compared to low. Existing speakers are producing hi-fi sound, so this good new piece of speakers will have to compete with it.
It sounds like an incredible technology. I can't wait to see the first protocol product or the reference design coming out to the market. I guess Google eyewear will come to reality in fairly short amount of time. Question is how to provide the current to drive the speakers and display. If battery is needed, will the energy storage technology catch up soon enough?