High Tech Coming to Car Audio

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It would be an understatement to say that today’s vehicles are evolving into complex and technology laden works of electronic art, but one area that may get a huge boost in refinement soon – is in the ever present automobile audio system.

I say audio system because calling it a car stereo simply does not fit the situation. At least that is the case if one of the hArtes initial projects bears its way to manufacturing.

The system, described in their own words as, “The development of in-car processing algorithms targeted at the ACIS high-quality multichannel audio system represents, with their intrinsically flexible properties…”, comes down to this rather simple summary – it optimizes the audio distribution in the vehicle evenly throughout the cabin, presenting an optimal listening experience to every occupant of the vehicle.

How does it do this? Sparing the details of the hArtes toolchain and its resulting architecture, the system employs an active electronic setup that utilizes up to 24 microphones situated throughout the vehicle. The microphones constantly monitor the sound output, and a small army of active sound processors utilizing state of the art algorithms refine the sound output to that perfect optimal sound quality.

But that is only part of the story. The system, built as a showcase around their extremely flexible toolchain approach, also incorporates processing for advanced in car audio communications, allowing for hands free cell phone conversations that are well adjusted for both microphone pickup and receiver listening.

Having a group conversation call with all the passengers of the equipped vehicle would be a very pleasant experience, and processing would work to remove any errant background noise as you travel to the destination. Time for a conference call…head to the car – no more shouting from the back of the conference room.

Another aspect of the system incorporates algorithms for both automatic speech and speaker recognition. Not only would it understand what you are saying, but it could recognize the speaker as well, paving the way for custom responses based on on individual preferences. It could play your choice of music or dial your specific home number with the shortest of verbal requests.

Video is not being overlooked in the technology showcase – the system incorporates the required codecs for the distribution of video throughout the vehicle cabin. This could allow for video conferencing to a specific seating position as well as video of choice. And naturally it lends itself well to digital radio, a key feature for soft radio implementations of the future.

The specifications of the demo project stands on its own merit, and you have to appreciate what the system brings to the vehicle experience. But the project goes beyond the technical, since the rolling project lab is built on a Mercedes. While it is a natural choice given the European location of the project, it can be argued that an important component of technological refinement is the marriage of technology with comfort. The hArtes team seem to have hit this one on the head.

You can find out more about the hArtes projects at their website, www.hartes.org.

In the meanwhile, I think I will put a little more effort into replacing the cassette audio adapter in my own vehicle – the folded up gum wrapper stuck in the slot to keep it running smoothly now seems rather Neanderthal (no offense to any cavemen readers intended).

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