A bunch of odd stuff comes out of Samsung’s C-Lab incubator each year, and today Samsung is unveiling a handful of its latest projects. The highlight is a product line called S-Ray, short for Sound-Ray, that’s composed of three different speakers that are supposed to act almost like headphones — playing music so that only a single person can hear it.
It’s hard to imagine how effectively this will work, but it’s a neat idea. Samsung wants people to be able to listen to music or watch videos while still being able to hear the world around them and without having to wear something on their head. That said, it’s unclear if they’re actually doing anything to cancel out sound for other people, or if they’re just using highly directional speakers. Other companies have taken the latter approach, but it hasn’t been enough to fully isolate sound.
The S-Ray line will start with three different speakers: two small, portable speakers, and a single neck-worn speaker, like the one Bose unveiled last year and LG made the year before that. The neck speaker is probably the most interesting if only because it’s such a weird-looking form factor. But as much as it looks like a fashion crime, having listened to Bose’s take on the neck speaker, I’m kind of sold on its practicality for someone like a cyclist.
Samsung is going to have to be really precise with its sound isolation if it wants to play up the S-Ray’s supposed selling point, otherwise these speakers are just going to end up annoying people nearby like other neck speakers do. While similar speakers sound a lot better for the wearer, it’s still clear to other people when they have something playing.
In addition to the S-Ray lineup, Samsung’s C-Lab is also previewing a breathing exercise app, called GoBreath, and smart glasses called Relúmĭno that are supposed to help people read if they have vision impairments.