Aircraft seating supplier, Jamco, has revealed it is taking part in a joint R&D project with NTT Sonority, an acoustics technology specialist, to develop a headset-free IFE audio system they say will be a “next-generation inflight audio experience”. The project, named the Personalized Sound Zone (PSZ), has speakers embedded in each headrest in business class or first class, which create a ‘sound zone’ that surrounds each passenger’s head area, allowing only that individual passenger to hear the audio output.
The passenger will be able to control the volume and sound settings from the speakers to their individual preferences, but there are limits, to ensure the output isn’t so loud it would extend beyond the sound zone and disturb neighbouring passengers. The system is not suitable for the economy class cabin, given the closer proximity of the headrests.
Benefits include the comfort of not having to wear a headset, not being tethered to the seat by a headset cable, and flight attendants being able to communicate with each passenger without them removing their headphones. The PSZ also dispenses with the need for airline-supplied headphones, and certain drawbacks, such as cleaning and maintenance for reuse in future flights, and disposal.
Panasonic and Thales have presented concepts with similar technology in the past, but it looks like Jamco and NTT Sonority will be first to market, as they are aiming to launch the technology in 2023.