What role does sound have in augmented reality? Facebook’s FRL Research team is testing an AR audio system that gives you the power to amplify voices and dim out background noise in real-time. The AR audio technology could be a key component of Facebook’s experimental AR glasses, which are still in an early stage of development.
Facebook is laser-focused on social engagement, even with its experimental AR glasses. Incorporating AR audio technology in a pair of smart frames could help people communicate in a noisy bar, for example, or give you the power to tune out the band at a concert while you talk to a friend. It sounds like a superpower, right?
The FRL Research team’s AR glasses contain an array of microphones and connect to two in-ear monitors—the fancy earbuds that musicians use onstage. These microphones use near-wave beamforming tech to capture and isolate nearby sounds (including the wearer’s voice), which the wearer can pick through by pointing their head at an audio source or flipping a hardware switch.
Facebook claims that the “perceptual superpowers” generated by its AR glasses could make their way to VR systems like the Oculus Rift. But unlike Facebook’s AR glasses, the Rift won’t enhance real-world sounds. Instead, it’ll generate a sonic environment that sounds real and provides better immersion for games.
Facebook’s AR glasses are still an experimental product. The company hasn’t announced plans to release AR glasses or any perceptual audio equipment.