"Invisible headphones" sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but fiction became reality at CES 2022 with the launch of the Noveto N1.
Rather than physically connecting to your ears, the N1 uses something the company calls “Smart Beaming” technology to supply you with music that nobody else hears. It works by sending ultrasonic waves directly into your auditory system — while everyone else experiences no more than a whisper.
Those ultrasonic waves create two pockets of audible noise around the user’s ears, offering a headphone-like experience complete with 3D spatial audio — but without the need to wear anything. The bar also uses motion sensors to track your head, altering the direction of the ultrasonic beams and ensuring that your audio doesn’t get cut off as you move.
It’s the kind of thing that sounds made up, and if the N1 hadn’t been on the CES showfloor I know I’d be very skeptical of these claims. But it’s the real deal, and was even named “Best Audio/Headphones” in Tom’s Guide’s Best of CES awards.
Noveto also says that the N1 will come with AI-based facial recognition, allowing it to offer “effortless” communication with smart assistants — i.e. the ability to talk to the voice assistant without having to say “Alexa” every single time.
As for other people in the room? Noveto claims there’s a 90% audio reduction when you’re three feet away, so you shouldn’t be able to hear much excess noise, provided you’re not too close to the person listening in.
That said, three feet is a lot of space — so this tech won’t be suitable for more confined spaces such as train cars or places that don’t follow social distancing.
The Noveto N1’s design doesn't have much portability anyway, so chances are you'll be using it at home or in an office. And on that front, it will fit in nicely, looking rather like a soundbar or wireless speaker, complete with a fabric mesh on each side of a main panel which features what appear to be tracking cameras. The circle in the center, meanwhile, promises live feedback on the N1's interactions with you. Apparently its name — HAL — stands for “Heuristic Activity LED,” but hopefully it won't share anything else with Arthur C Clarke’s murderous AI.
Control buttons can be found on top of the N1, complete with 3.5mm and USB-C ports. The speaker itself will also be capable of wireless connectivity, with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Production is underway now, though as yet there's no word on when it will be available to buy or how much it will cost. Either way, we'll be giving it a try as soon as we can.
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Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.