Catalyst 2017 Profile: Soton Audio Labs

Continuing our profiles of the businesses that successfully won a place in Catalyst, Southampton Science Park’s incubator for early stage businesses, today we introduce Soton Audio Labs (SAL). A spin-out arising from research conducted into audio reproduction at the University of Southampton, SAL was founded by Marcos Simón and Filippo Fazi. Marcos tells us more.

Marcos, what are you creating?  We are creating the sound of the future! We work in the consumer electronics sector, creating novel technological solutions for spatial audio reproduction, enabling accurate reproductions of 3D sound fields in the form of a loudspeaker array (or ‘soundbar’).

Our invention will enable listeners to experience sounds coming from any direction within the home from a single soundbar with an attached camera system which tracks the location of the viewer within the room. This delivers an immersive, extremely realistic 3D audio experience.

Who will benefit? The average Briton spends nearly a decade of their adult life watching television, but millions of viewers enjoy a limited experience through a small set of loudspeakers. In real life, we hear and locate sounds all around us. This reality can never be truly recreated through our screens or even sophisticated home cinema systems – until now.

Our technology has both business-to-consumer and business-to-business potential.

Originally, we set out to design a replacement for conventional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems; a way to provide the same listening experience but without the need for positioning loudspeakers around the listener or for the listener to wear headphones. This will appeal to affluent, early-adopting consumers who are at the forefront of technology and seek differentiation.

However, the resulting technology has opened up the prospect of taking it beyond the consumer market into a whole new set of applications across commercial markets. We would like to licence our technology to car companies, cinema-audio companies, or companies producing high performance simulators; in fact any application that requires an accurate 3D reproduction without the need to wear headphones.

 

How does it work?  Very simply! Our smart soundbars radiate acoustic waves that create acoustic and destructive interferences, creating “virtual headphones” at the listener’s head positions. These virtual headphones allow us to render any 3D soundfield we want, just as listeners would hear in a real life situation.

What stage is the business at?  We have incorporated our company and are in the process of securing funding and consolidating our business plan. Our main concern at the moment is to understand which business model we should follow – whether to manufacture ourselves or licence the technology to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

 

And what’s next? We are working towards having a fully formed company, have secured funding and have a couple of licensing deals or feasibility studies lined up.

 

How did you feel when you were informed that you were successful in gaining entry to Catalyst? I was very happy to receive the news and very grateful that Catalyst is giving me this opportunity to grow as an individual and gain the business skills that I need.

 

And how is it going so far?

It is going great! The support and advice from the Catalyst mentors is just brutal. Decision making on an early life start-up is extremely hard sometimes and I am finding the weekly meetings we are holding with the mentors very useful.

I enjoy every day I am at the Catalyst Centre and I look forward to keep working and advancing our company formation with the help of the mentors here.

 

Where can we find out more? Take a look at our video at https://futureworlds.com/soton_audio_labs/. It explains the technology and wait until you see peoples’ responses having listened to it!