People

New Facebook research suggests audio will be key to its AR glasses

Facebook researchers have been working on "perceptual superpowers."

Anechoic Chamber

By explicitly focusing on social situations, Facebook may have found a novel way to drive the adoption of AR glasses.

Image: Facebook

When Facebook eventually launches its own AR glasses, advanced audio features are likely going to be a major selling point. That's the main takeaway from new research coming out of Facebook Reality Labs, the company's recently renamed AR/VR division.

The division's research arm gave a group of journalists a sneak peek at their work this week, highlighting how it aims to both improve consumers' sense of presence in AR and VR through audio and give them the ability to block out background noise and amplify voices in bars and other loud social spaces. And while the researchers stressed that their work was in early stages, they also said that it was all about laying the groundwork for future AR products.

"Once you experience them, it's sort of like the first time you put on a VR headset and you said, 'Wow, this is just different from anything I've ever experienced,'" FRL Research Chief Scientist Michael Abrash said about the two features.

FRL Research Auditory Perception Lead Owen Brimijoin said it "feels like nothing short of magic." Part of that "magic" is making audio that is delivered over headphones indistinguishable from something happening in the room you're in, which could, for instance, make telepresence a lot more lifelike. To achieve this, audio needs to be spatial, meaning that it can be placed in a 3D space, as opposed to just mono or stereo.

Facebook has been using spatial audio to improve immersion for its VR headsets already, but the company's researchers stressed this week that a true sense of audio presence requires a lot more work. For instance, everyone's ear is shaped differently, which is why the company is working on using photographs and videos of people's ears to personalize spatial audio.

Facebook's researchers also outlined their work on "perceptual superpowers," which could turn AR glasses into a kind of situationally aware hearing aid. In essence, Facebook wants to use an array of microphones on its AR glasses to amplify the voice of someone you may be talking to in a crowded bar, while simultaneously blocking out any background noise.

Abrash acknowledged that this feature in particular may raise privacy concerns. "It is something that is very much on our minds as we develop it," he said, adding that Facebook could include safeguards like limiting the reach of such microphones.

However, there is also a potential flip side: By explicitly focusing on social situations, Facebook may have found a novel way to drive the adoption of AR glasses. Previous iterations, from Google Glass to Magic Leap's headset, have been very much focused on delivering features to the wearer of the device alone, prompting the backlash against "glassholes."

Giving wearers of Facebook's upcoming AR glasses the ability to hear others better, and in turn participate more in social settings, might take away a lot of that stigma, and ultimately turn them into more of a utilitarian product that could have a much larger potential customer base.

Enterprise

Why CrowdStrike wants to be a broader enterprise IT player

The company, which grew from $1 billion in annual recurring revenue to $2 billion in just 18 months, is expanding deeper within the cybersecurity market and into the wider IT space as well.

CrowdStrike is well positioned at a time when CISOs are fed up with going to dozens of different vendors to meet their security needs.

Image: Protocol

CrowdStrike is finding massive traction in areas outside its core endpoint security products, setting up the company to become a major player in other key security segments such as identity protection as well as in IT categories beyond cybersecurity.

Already one of the biggest names in cybersecurity for the past decade, CrowdStrike now aspires to become a more important player in areas within the wider IT landscape such as data observability and IT operations, CrowdStrike co-founder and CEO George Kurtz told Protocol in a recent interview.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Election markets are far from a sure bet

Kalshi has big-name backing for its plan to offer futures contracts tied to election results. Will that win over a long-skeptical regulator?

Whether Kalshi’s election contracts could be considered gaming or whether they serve a true risk-hedging purpose is one of the top questions the CFTC is weighing in its review.

Photo illustration: Getty Images; Protocol

Crypto isn’t the only emerging issue on the CFTC’s plate. The futures regulator is also weighing a fintech sector that has similarly tricky political implications: election bets.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has set Oct. 28 as a date by which it hopes to decide whether the New York-based startup Kalshi can offer a form of wagering up to $25,000 on which party will control the House of Representatives and Senate after the midterms. PredictIt, another online market for election trading, has also sued the regulator over its decision to cancel a no-action letter.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.
Enterprise

The Uber verdict shows why mandatory disclosure isn't such a bad idea

The conviction of Uber's former chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, seems likely to change some minds in the debate over proposed cyber incident reporting regulations.

Executives and boards will now be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up," said one information security veteran.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If nothing else, the guilty verdict delivered Wednesday in a case involving Uber's former security head will have this effect on how breaches are handled in the future: Executives and boards, according to information security veteran Michael Hamilton, will be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up."

Following the conviction of former Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan, "we likely will get better voluntary reporting" of cyber incidents, said Hamilton, formerly the chief information security officer of the City of Seattle, and currently the founder and CISO at cybersecurity vendor Critical Insight.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Climate

Delta and MIT are running flight tests to fix contrails

The research team and airline are running flight tests to determine if it’s possible to avoid the climate-warming effects of contrails.

Delta and MIT just announced a partnership to test how to mitigate persistent contrails.

Photo: Gabriela Natiello/Unsplash

Contrails could be responsible for up to 2% of all global warming, and yet how they’re formed and how to mitigate them is barely understood by major airlines.

That may be changing.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol covering climate. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins