Headrest audio “is growing in the industry” as it can create “immersive and personal surround,” said Harman in a virtual pre-CES event Thursday.
The company showed a new modular headrest with wings on either side that fold down and include personal speakers for each car occupant. The wings literally place speakers near the occupant’s ears.
The speaker wings are mechanized and can retract on demand. They allow sound zones and “3D spatial audio,” said Harman.
The technology is available now to car makers.
“Each passenger now has the means to customize their own audio,” said Harman, which partnered with headrest-maker Grammer to produce the products.
“For auto makers, there’s a shift from vehicles being just for driving to being for living,” Harman said, as it previewed a number of new in-car systems available to car makers.
Harman research found that drivers spend a lot of time waiting in their car—for the next appointment or for kids from school– and many play games on their phones to pass the time. So Harman created a gaming package for car makers that can activate when the car is parked. The steering wheel retracts to make room for playing, audio is optimized in the personal headrests, OLED and QLED displays are activated, the seats vibrate for haptic feedback, and the ambient lighting adjusts to match the game action. Additionally, the system uses 5G and it allows multi-player gaming remotely with split screen views.
Harman has devised a two-way concert mode for the car, for both in-cabin and tailgate listening. For the latter mode, a large screen comes down in the rear of the car and work with rear external speakers. Through 5G and the cloud, the car itself “can become a concert venue” with audio headrests for immersive sound, in-car lighting that synchronizes with the music and an interactive display in the steering wheel that lets you vote for the next song the artist might play.
There’s also a third system called Creative Studio, where users can record and publish music, making use of the car’s infotainment system while the car is parked.