3.5G: now in stereo

John C. Tanner
18 May 2009

Your mobile user experience will soon be available in SurroundSound, says NTT DoCoMo, thanks to "mobile spatial audio transmission technology".

DoCoMo says the technology, demonstrated last week at Wireless Technology Park 2009 in Yokohama, allows a mobile phone user to assign a spatial position to different sound sources for apps like games or conference calls.

Put on some headphones, and game characters coming from the left side of your iPhone (or, in this case, your DoCoMo PRO series HT-01A handset) will come from that direction, or the people in your conference call will sound as though they’re standing on either side of you.

DoCoMo didn’t invent spatial audio so much as make it more efficient for mobile. Existing spatial audio transmission technologies process audio encoding/decoding and spatial audio synthesis independently, but DoCoMo says its technology integrates the processing in a client/server set-up, which saves on both bit-rates and computation speed on the mobile device.

The server does the heavy lifting by IDing the important sound components of each speaker's voice, compressing them into a single stream that is then transmitted to the mobile phone, which then decodes the stream and synthesizes spatial audio images.

DoCoMo says it’s doing additional R&D to commercialize the technology for mobile conference calls, distance learning and online games, though it won’t give out a target year.

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