Q&A | Vinod Gopinath
Theatre-like surround sound powered from your pocket
Don’t plug, just play
We’ve previously reviewed the Violet3D wireless surround sound system, and been blown away by the technology and product quality on display. It’s been around two years though, and this January, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, US, Violet3D showed off a range of new products. We spoke to Vinod Gopinath, chief operating officer of the firm, to understand how the technology has been developing, and what to expect in the future. Edited excerpts from a phone interview:
Your wireless technology was launched two years ago—what’s changed since then?
The biggest change was the new console, which is available in the market already. We got a lot of feedback from our customers that led to the new hardware.
One interesting new development is in tuning the audio—audio quality gets compromised in case of bad speaker placement. With our console, you get a microphone which helps calibrate this, but now you can even use your smartphone to do this.
What new products did you show at CES?
The most exciting thing we did was showcase a new technology, which lets you create full positional sound. It brings all the convenience of Violet, the whole wireless experience, but using just four speakers, we are able to do dynamic calculations to the sound, and create virtual speakers, to give you full surround sound, that is object-based. Each object gets a sound attribute.
Like the Dolby Atmos, but on a small scale?
Not exactly. Our solution is software based and works even with four speakers, and we were able to create a demo, in just the last two months actually, with headphones as well, so you’ll be able to get full 3D positional sound on any headset.
It’s something you need to experience, but there’s something called “Virtual Barbershop” on YouTube, which is a demonstration of this kind of audio processing, on the X-Y plane. So the sound in that demo moves from one side to the other, if you’re wearing headphones.
Our technology can process 128 channels of audio, and uses a patented virtual speaker technology to reproduce that with four speakers in the room, or with a headset.
So do you see this being used in movies?
This is particularly great for gaming—today, games only reproduce sound along the horizontal plane, from your sides, in front, and behind. But using this software while making games, you can generate sound that is accurately located along the Z axis as well; the height. So if something is above you to one side, you’ll be able to tell with the sound.
We’re working with a major console game company right now, and in time, we could do this on tablets too.
Aside from the console, you’ve also launched a new soundbar. What’s different in that area?
This is one area where I don’t think we did a good enough job. We actually got some good feedback from people, but I wish we had a little longer to work on this. Soundbars offer a lot of convenience, but there’s a problem with soundbars when you’re watching movies—surround sound. There are some great soundbars available now, but no matter how fancy you get, at the end of the day it’s just not physically possible to convincingly get surround sound from a soundbar. Our solution is to use two bars, front and rear, which are kept in sync wirelessly. We use software to determine how the sound should come from each speaker, to create perfect surround sound.
You mentioned tablets—is mobile a big priority for a company in the audio segment?
Absolutely. There’s a real demand for audio solutions that keep tablets and mobile phones in mind, particularly in India. So our console lets you stream using Bluetooth already.
So you’re watching a movie or playing a game on your tablet, with full surround sound from four-seven speakers, with extremely high-quality audio.
The 3D demonstration that we did, we’ve tested on Windows tablets, because they already have USB ports, and the results were great. These mobile devices are really powerful now, so it’s definitely possible to do the software part. It’s a big segment and no one can afford to ignore it today.
Your starting price is Rs.60,000. How has the market response been?
In India, the audio market is really most active in the lower end, where people buy speakers for Rs.5,000 upwards…. At our price, there is a relatively small market in India—we do a lot of our business in other countries. And we sell our technology to some established firms. We’re trying to keep the price as low as possible as well because we want to sell in India, we feel pride in knowing that Indian products are being sold in India.
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