Instead of just creating AR glasses in which the visual reality around you is filled with “augmented” digital objects, Facebook are looking to develop AR glasses that feature audio technology so advanced, you wouldn’t be mistaken in thinking they give you superpowers.
According to a Facebook blog post, Facebook’s audio team shared some insight into how exactly they plan on creating the next level in audio technology. The audio team are working on two different types of technology which will “redefine human hearing.”
The first of which includes a device which enhances your hearing to the point where you simply need to look at someone from across the room to hear what they are saying. The second way Facebook plan on giving us super hearing is with ‘advanced audio presence’, where it’s impossible to tell if sound is coming from loud speakers in a room or from a headphones.
To develop the first method for super hearing, Facebook’s research team plan on creating a device that captures the sounds around you with multiple mics, then register the pattern of your head and eye movements to figure out which sounds you’re most interested in hearing, and eliminate all other background noises.
If they’re able to achieve this, you’ll be able to perfectly hear what someone is saying from across a crowded and noisy room. This technology could be used to better help those who suffer from hearing loss or people who are gradually losing their ability to hear as they get older.
The next method Facebook are looking to develop is to create virtual sounds that cannot be distinguished from reality. To do this the research team first needs to find out how exactly your brain determines where sound is coming from. This includes the geometry of the room you’re in, the different volume of sound in each ear, and the shape of your ears, and the fact that one ear hears the sound slightly before the other.
By using this information, Facebook’s audio team was able to create the feeling of a real audio presence, even when it was created virtually. In a demonstration, Facebook asked volunteers if they could tell which sounds are coming from loud speakers set up in a room, and which sounds were being virtually produced by headphones they’re wearing. Amazingly, no one could tell the difference between the two sounds. This technology could be used to improve the way we interact on video calls, making it sound as if the person you’re talking to is in the room, when they’re actually half way across the world.