Coming Soon: Body-Rocking Beats

Wearable audio technology could change the way we experience music.

Written by Leilani Smith • Photography by C Flanigan, WireImage • December 7, 2016

We’ve all felt it before: the booming bass pounding through your chest as you jump around in the crowd. Whether it’s EDM, funky R&B or straight-up rock, the sound pumping through the speakers can make music quite a physical experience. But what if there was wearable technology (you know, like a FitBit or Apple Watch type of gadget) that could enhance that experience to include a greater range of sound through your entire body?

Well, it’s coming.

The movie industry overseas is already exploring this possibility. With the competition of at-home movie streaming pushing movie theaters to innovate, installations of IMAX-capable screens and D-Box motion seats are becoming standard as a way to heighten audiences’ sensory perception as they watch. One new phase in this augmented sensory approach is a “wearable tactile audio system” developed by California tech firm SubPac. The company has recently partnered with CJ Entertainment & Media, South Korea’s biggest theater operator, to try out their new approach to sound at the movies.

What exactly are we talking about here? Well, SubPac makes a kind of wearable vest that essentially turns any sound source into vibrations you can feel, so you don’t have to go deaf to get that heart-pounding bass through your chest. Even better, in a movie theater setting, SubPac tech will allow audiences to control sound volume and the intensity of the vibrations for an individualized experience. For film fiends, this means you can finally drown out crying children, obnoxiously loud popcorn chewing, and the moviegoer favorite of others stage whispering running commentary during an entire movie. After it launches in South Korean theaters, SubPac plans to expand to CJ E&M theater chains in the U.S.

While movie theaters are the early adopters, it’s a good bet that similar sensory expansion in games and music won’t be far behind. Soon, gamers could be experiencing their favorite titles more deeply by hearing and feeling the music and sound effects. Meanwhile, “feeling the beat” could take on a whole new meaning for music fans, and it might even spur music makers to create new tunes with the new tech in mind. Fans of bass everywhere, rejoice.

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