Harman Submits Patent for Robotic Speakers for Virtual Reality
Samsung subsidiary Harman has submitted a patent for mapping out sounds from virtual reality games and experiences onto robotic speakers for a more realistic audio output from virtual environments.
The virtual reality experience often involves moving from one location to the next and the new innovation is geared at having robotic speakers that will move to where the sounds are emanating from within the virtual world so to bring out a more realistic experience. Harman’s patent aims at bringing the virtual reality sounds into the user’s spatial surroundings via robotic speakers.
This innovation was necessitated by the fact the audio sounds that come out of the static audio devices in VR setups may not be an accurate representation of the virtual environment or the virtual objects that are inside that virtual environment, according to information in the patent application. The patent gives the example of the sound output from stationary speakers that may not provide an accurate representation of the direction, distance as well as motion between the user wearing the headsets and a virtual object that is within the virtual environment. In the virtual environment, the sounds are pretty much static and do not align with the dynamic actions within the virtual environment. A robotic speaker that accurately captures this detail will be crucial to making the virtual experience a lot more realistic for the user.
As the terrain develops further, virtual reality experience continues to pose certain challenges that must be solved by hardware innovation. These challenges are key to the experiential aspect. Sound is a big part of the VR experience and unlike traditional digital entertainment where the user is sitting still or static, in the virtual reality environment, the user is often on the move. If they are moving away from an event within the virtual environment, then the sound system in the VR environment should reflect the motion, distance or flux. The Harman patent allows sounds in the virtual reality environment to be more realistic during the VR sessions by factoring the motion or distance of the wearer relative to the events in the virtual environment.
The Harman patent is titled “Mobile speaker system for virtual reality environments” and describes a robotic speaker that will be capable of shifting locations within the physical environment around the person wearing the virtual reality headset so as to provide a more accurate representation of the sounds that are associated with the virtual objects.
Allowing the speakers to move makes it possible for speakers to quickly adjust around the user, no matter the direction they turn or step into. The implication of this is that the user is able to get a more realistic audio feedback that corresponds to their virtual experience. No matter the sounds in the virtual environment, the robotic speakers will adjust their positions so as to bring out the effect.
The speakers could move around in multiple ways. The most obvious method is speakers on wheels moving around the floor within the space the user operates from. However, Harman is also envisaging a scenario where there will be a “hovering mobility platform” that will be anchored on co-axial rotors, multi rotors like in quadcopters or on vertical gas jets that are based on propulsion mobility platforms. This could one day result in VR systems that will include small teams of drone speakers floating around the user as they play though this sounds like a very complex and cumbersome setup that users will have to endure just to capture realistic sounds!
For the time being, this complicated setup remains just an idea inside a patent. The actual task of realizing such an idea will no doubt involve costly and complicated design and development work. A setup that involves a team of flying robotic speakers synced with the virtual experience will also need a lot more room within which the setup can move around without clashing with other objects in the room. For now, it seems a bit more complex but it’s something that could happen in the future to create a more realistic audio quality for virtual experiences. Or perhaps, someone will come up with a patent for a less cumbersome and less mechanical implementation.