Headphones deliver 3D cinema sound that changes as you move

Using gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers, the Neoh headphones on Kickstarter know where your head is and adjust the sound accordingly.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Watch out behind you! The Neoh headphones put movie and game action all around you. 3D Sound Labs

When it comes to audio experiences, few things can compare to being in the middle of a movie theater with sound blasting all around you. A just-launched crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for headphones called Neoh is promising to re-create that very experience at home.

These high-tech cans have built-in motion sensors that adjust the sound based on how you move your head. The effect might be subtle, but when you turn your head or shift in your seat, the sound around you changes. This is different from wearing a set of earbuds or ordinary headphones that keep the sound exactly the same no matter where you are in space.

The headphones will render sound in three dimensions, so if a noise is meant to be heard behind you, you'll hear it behind you. Turn your head to "see" the sound and it will still be there -- it doesn't travel with the headphones.

It's important to note that for the 3D rendering to work with Neoh, you'll need to install an app on your tablet or phone. At rollout, the app will only be available for iOS devices, but an version is promised soon. The headphones will work without the app, but to get the 3D sound to function for your games or movies, you'll need to have it installed.

The Neoh headphones, made by 3D Sound Labs, do their thing thanks to a psychoacoustic effect. "We humans locate sounds based on the time differential between its perception via each of our ears, and on the way sounds are shaped by acoustic filters known as Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTF) depending on our individual faces and ears," says a release about the invention. "3D Sound Labs has developed algorithms with the ability to reproduce these spatial perception mechanisms and therefore detect the tiniest movement of the head to reconstitute sound sources in space and in real time."

Neoh's Kickstarter campaign is chugging along nicely, hitting almost $55,000 of an $80,000 goal with 25 days left to go. Most of the early-bird specials are gone, but you can still get a pair for $199 (about £130, AU$260), which is a discount of $50 (about £35, AU$65) off the main campaign price. Shipping is free in the US and Europe and the headphones are expected to ship in June.