Bluetooth-based Auracast tech can power 'unlimited' headphones in public spaces

Bluetooth SIG's new brand is developing and promoting tech that allows one audio transmitter to beam sound to nearby headphones.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG), which manages the technology behind the wireless connection protocol, announced the founding of a new brand focused on wide-area audio broadcasts. Dubbed Auracast, the new initiative will take the assets of the technology previously known as Audio Sharing and develop them as a way to output sound to an unlimited number of devices, using only one transmitter. 

Most Bluetooth connections feature a single transmitter and a single receiver. This is typically something like a laptop feeding sound to a pair of headphones or a smartphone outputting audio via an external speaker. However, Auracast promises to power massive numbers of headphones and other devices using only a single transmitter. The transmitter could be something as complex as a public address system or something as simple as a smartphone, a laptop, or a TV. 

Mark Powell, CEO of the Bluetooth SIG, claims the launch of Auracast will "reshape personal audio and enable public venues and spaces to deliver audio experiences that will improve visitor satisfaction and increase accessibility." 

The Bluetooth SIG proposed multiple applications for the technology in its initial announcement, including sharing your home audio playback among a group of friends, listening in to audio output tied to displays in public spaces, and improving audio quality for the fully abled and hard-of-hearing by providing both with a direct channel to broadcasted audio in a public space like a "transit center, cinema, conference center, or house of worship." 

The organization believes this final use case also could see Auracast becoming the basis of next-generation assistive listening systems (ALS) for the hearing-impaired. 

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Although Auracast's specifications are considered part of the Bluetooth LE Audio specification suite, the new technology still will require specific Auracast-enabled devices to function. The initial Auracast specifications are expected to be released "within the next few months." No time frame was given for when the first Auracast-enabled products might reach the public. 

Developers and others interested in the technology can learn more by visiting the official Auracast web page.

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