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Google picks Harman as its audio technology partner

The idea behind Project Ara is to develop a modular smartphone with up to six different modules that can be clipped together, so the user can add upgrades such as a better camera or speakers without having to buy a new phone.

Harman will create an audio module, and possibly better speakers, for the Ara. The module could take the form of a clip-on headphone amp/DAC, as already found on the LG G5 which comes with an optional Hi-Fi Plus DAC developed in conjunction with Bang & Olusen.

It appears that smartphone manufacturers are at last taking sound quality seriously, with the increasing popularity of higher-quality music downloads and streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz.

“Consumers now understand they don’t have to sacrifice sound [quality] for portablity, and Ara will give them premium audio and the functionality they want on the go,” says Michael Mauser, president of Harman Lifestyle Audio.

As part of the deal between the two tech firms, Harman will also work with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group (ATAP) on Project Soli. Soli uses radar to enable new types of touchless control, where the human hand becomes a natural, intuitive interface for devices. Car makers such as BMW have already introduced gesture control on some of their in-car multimedia systems such as that on the latest 7 Series.

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