We've had surround sound, 3D sound via Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos, and now comes multisensory audio. It's a technology that adds a sense of touch to the mix, supposedly letting the viewer feel what they're hearing. It might sound crazy, but it has its roots in therapy for autistic children.
Flexound Augmented Audio (opens in new tab) claims to create a "unique, holistic, immersive listening experience that you can feel as well as hear". As well as standard audio, you get "gentle physical sound wave vibration" to add the sensation of touch. And it works with all kinds of content, including music, games, television, streaming, movies, and VR.
But perhaps the most obvious application is in cinemas. The Flexound Pulse is a chair with the technology built-in – vibrations radiate through the soft foam padding, which Flexound claims make the viewing and listening experience more immersive. But Flexound believes the tech works equally well as an office chair for video calls, a gaming station, for sound massage, automotive audio, or for home viewing. It also makes content more accessible for the hearing impaired.
It's also less disruptive to neighbours, co-workers, and anyone else not interested in what you're watching. Because you can feel frequencies up to 500Hz with your body and up to 1000Hz with your hands and skin, you don't have to fill the room with sound to get the full audio experience. That means far less sound leakage.
Away from pure entertainment, it also has a therapeutic role to play. The vibro-acoustic technology was developed to provide pain relief and ease anxiety. It has been used by therapists treating children and adults with autism and development disability, people with chronic pain, rehabilitation of memory disorders, neurological and sleeping disorders, depression, and speech therapy.
The technology is ready to be licensed for use in cinemas and by furniture manufacturers, so look out for it at your local multiplex...
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