Facebook is thinking about a novel approach to providing sound in augmented reality: "cartilage conduction" technology that would allow you to hear sound from a computer without having to wear headphones.
Adding sound to virtual reality is pretty straightforward — the user's headset replaces the entire world with virtual imagery, so they can pop a pair of headphones or speakers on to complete the illusion. But with augmented reality, where virtual objects are overlaid via a display over the real world, it's more tricky; users might benefit from added sound, but traditional headphones could block out sound from real life entirely.
Facebook's potential solution, which it details in a patent application filed in late February, is to avoid headphones entirely. Instead, the patent suggests building a "transducer" that sits behind the user's ear, and vibrates the cartilage in the ear, producing sound without blocking ambient audio from the surrounding world.
"A user wearing a head-mounted display in a VR, AR, and MR system can benefit from keeping the ear canal open and not covered by an audio devices. For example, the user can have a more immersive and safer experience and receive spatial cues from ambient sound when the ear is unobstructed," the patent explains. Read more