Listening to anything in the car is more or less a communal experience. Someone puts something on — the radio, a playlist, a podcast — and everyone else in the car can either listen along or put on headphones. That means if you want to enjoy something of your own on that new aftermarket audio system your friend won't shut up about, you'll have to wait. Harman wants to help change that by building what it calls Individual Sound Zone (ISZ) technology into cars, letting you listen to what you want without hearing what's playing in everyone else's speakers.
We got a demonstration of the new tech at Harman's booth in Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel this week, and we can say that it works even if it's still imperfect. Using an array of speakers that fire directly at the driver and each passenger, ISZ lets the individual choose what he or she wants to listen to on the fly while also blocking out what everyone else is listening to. That's all handled using a touch interface that lets you select what kind of media you want to play and where it's playing. (The displays weren't yet ready to test during our demo.)
Personalize what you want to hear on the fly
It may not be possible to drown out all other audio completely, but Harman is working on it. In the small Lexus concept model we piled into, we could still pick up the audio other passengers were listening to without much straining. Harman says that the effect improves in larger cars.
Harman says that all carmakers can implement the new tech, so we may see it on the road in the next model year. Until then, you'd have to put up with your friend's terrible playlist a little longer.