A passenger car cabin is a relatively small space where we are forced into relatively close proximity to fellow humans for a potentially long period of time. We can talk to each other or, when we've exhausted the possibilities for conversation, indulge in other things. There's the in-car entertainment, for example. Oh yes, let's all join in listening to the driver's preferred musical tastes. Increasingly, in the fragmented world we live in these days with so much material available online, the cultural spectrum we are exposed to is very wide indeed; the driver may like to drive to the accompaniment of Gregorian chants, Rick Dees' greatest hits or the latest K-Pop. If that's the case and the scenery is suitably dull, your passengers may well prefer to put the headphones on and listen to or watch something else via the ubiquitous personal devices that everyone has access to.
Some clever work on sound waves in the cabin has been taking place at Hyundai which holds out the hope of sound bubbles (Separated Sound Zones) inside the car enabling people to do their own audio thing without interfering with others and sans headphones. It could be a way to solve the problem of conflicting audio wants in the car without the physical shut-off barrier that is presented by headphones. And a sleeping child can be immersed in a noise-free environment in the back, too. It sounds impressive (no pun intended).
I just wonder whether it makes it even less likely that the passengers will talk to each other, if the self-immersive in-car audio experience is enhanced to this degree. Shared car journeys can be a great meeting point for people, a shared space to really have some good conversations. For example, if you're time poor, it can be a place where important familial interactions take place. Maybe people will have 'higher quality' conversations when they actually do have face-time put aside to actually talk to each other, in the car or in the home. Maybe. Personally, while in the car I am driving, I like to talk to fellow passengers, shoot the breeze, attempt humorous observations, and just see where the conversation goes; a captive audience that has to listen can be an essential part of the fun. It may well be more difficult for me to compete with the in-car entertainment options in the future.
Hyundai reveals next-gen Separated Sound Zone technology
YouTube video illustrating the Hyundai tech
Until next time...
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