Imagine listening to your favorite music with exceptional surround sound on your tablet, or being able to adjust the sound mix of a TV program to your preference. In fact, all of this functionality is already available. The scientists and engineers of Fraunhofer IIS are working every day on cutting edge audio technologies that deliver superlative sound quality across different platforms. At this year’s CES, we presented our latest developments and gave our visitors a glimpse of tomorrow’s audio and multimedia world.
Sound and pictures go hand-in-hand
Ultra-HD TVs and curved displays emerged as one of the defining trends of this year’s CES. But in reality high resolution video is not enough to create an unforgettable television experience. It is only after you add high quality audio that pictures really come to life and are able to transform the living room into a personal cinema. For this reason we presented the very first preview of the new Fraunhofer TV audio system. This technology enables greater interactivity and authentic immersive sound for tomorrow’s TV viewers. Just imagine standing in the middle of a rain shower, hearing the rain falling down from the sky and hitting the ground, or listening to the engaging chords of an organ playing in a church. With these and other audio samples, our booth visitors were able to experience the sound of future television in a mocked-up living room equipped with a 3D sound system. Based on the upcoming open ISO audio standard MPEG-H, the new Fraunhofer technology works with channels as well as with audio objects. Moreover, our new audio codec ensures optimized audio playback on tablets and smartphones while you are on the move.
Exceptional listening experience everywhere
Put on the headset, escape from the show floor’s noisy environment for a while and experience immersive surround sound… all this was made possible with our technology, Cingo. With Cingo, music lovers can listen to their favorite song on their smartphones or tablets with brilliant surround sound everywhere by using the built-in stereo speakers or headsets.
In addition, we brought our Dialogue Enhancement technology to Las Vegas. This solution enables TV or radio audiences to independently increase or decrease single audio elements within a broadcast program such as background sound, sound effects or dialogue. Using coverage of the French Open and Wimbledon Championships, our booth visitors had the opportunity to adjust the speech intelligibility of the sports commentator or the on-court atmosphere on a tablet with a few simple mouse-clicks.
MP3 or AAC – our technologies are implemented in over seven billion devices
Just a few steps away, we presented a codec comparison that indicated how great a boost to efficiency our latest upgrade to the AAC audio coding family, Extended High Efficiency AAC (xHE-AAC), can provide in typical broadcasting scenarios such as talk radio, music jingles or audio books. Our visitors chose a music mix, one of the three codecs and the respective codec’s bit-rate to hear the codec’s output. In contrast to the other codecs, xHE-AAC was able to deliver an excellent performance with high quality audio for both music and speech at very low bit rates.
Our audio codecs are also the perfect solution for streaming scenarios where the transmission capacity is limited and bit rates are changing. Thanks to its flexibility the audio codec of choice for broadcast and streaming, High Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC), is the ideal candidate for adaptive streaming standards such as MPEG-DASH. Despite migration from one bit rate to another to adapt to changing network conditions, HE-AAC – in combination with the new MPEG video codec HEVC – performed well and transmitted content with the best possible quality.
World-leading mobile platforms such as iOS or Android already feature our HE-AAC codec. At CES we showcased native support of HE-AAC multichannel on the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android. This facility enables playback of high quality 5.1 surround content on an Android 4.1 phone connected via HDMI to a home theatre system.
CES 2014: a summary
More than 3.200 exhibitors presented their current innovations in the field of consumer electronics at CES 2014. About 150.000 visitors learned more about the latest generation of laptops, tablets and smartphones. Other interesting topics included 3D printers, robots for a wide range of tasks, and drones. Highlights of this year’s CES also included connected homes, cars with intelligent gadgets, and wearable devices with practical benefits for our everyday lives.
For Fraunhofer IIS, the four days spent at the trade show were extremely productive. We had many interesting conversations with potential customers and the media, and made a number of highly promising new contacts. Please visit us at NAB, April 5 – 10, 2014, at our booth SU6117. We look forward to see you in Las Vegas.
Header image © Valentin Schilling – Fraunhofer IIS