Bose made its name in audio, and currently designs sound systems for automakers such as Nissan and Cadillac, but the company showed off another side of its business at CES 2017, active seat suspension. Already selling its unique seat suspension technology for commercial trucks, Bose is developing the technology for cars.
At CES, I rode in a van equipped with prototype versions of the seating technology, geared toward showing how riders can be more productive when their seats keep them steady.
Given an iPad and assigned writing and drawing tasks, I sat in a well-padded seat with a footrest while the van drove over obstacles representing potholes, speed bumps and an angled driveway approach. With the Bose system turned off, the van jounced me around with strong vertical and lateral motion, making it difficult and uncomfortable to use a stylus on the iPad.
With the system activated, my seat moved independently from the vehicle, absorbing much of the external motion. I still felt some of the harsher movements, but I could more easily work on the iPad. Bose's technology became particularly noticeable when the van passed over uneven bumps. I could see the top and sides of the van moving around me while I remained upright and centered.
Bose thinks the technology could play a big part in autonomous cars, where riders will spend more time working or using tablets.
The production seats for trucks, called Bose Ride, use an electromagnetic motor to control vertical motion, which keeps the rider's thorax insulated from hard shocks. A sensor detects the beginning of a shock moment, and the seat's motor responds. The prototype I experienced added lateral control, a cradle in the seat that compensated for side-to-side motion.
Built for commercial vehicles, the Bose Ride seats look too large to fit in a typical passenger vehicle. But Bose showed its work towards making the technology smaller, so that one day it could be more widely used. Imagine a sports car with its suspension designed for perfect handling, while the seat's suspension serves up a completely comfortable ride.