These Glass Speakers Work Like Magic

By Bryan Menegus on at

Turtle Beach’s Hypersound Glass speakers use a sheet of transparent glass to drive sound in a highly focused beam directly in front of them while being inaudible outside the beam’s range. Welcome to never knowing why you’re hearing ads all the time — our Blade Runner hell-future has arrived.

The exact means the Hypersound Glass uses to generate a tight beam of sound isn’t specifically disclosed, but according to the company, the glass is layered with transparent films. Like other highly directional speakers, what’s being generated isn’t audible sound waves but rather ultrasonic waves. Based on other products of this nature, it’s safe to guess that as those ultrasound waves pass through the glass/film sandwich they’re modulated in such a way that they become audible again while travelling in a straight line, though the details on specific improvements will likely remain trade secrets. Acoustics is, to put it mildly, a bizarre science.

While these see-through speakers probably won’t replace more traditional options for the home market, there are some interesting applications for the technology. According to a press release, Turtle Beach may try to integrate the technology into things we already make out of glass, like computer monitors and car windshields — things that are already easy to break and expensive to fix. But heck, being able to crank a laptop to full volume without bothering the person sitting next to you would be worth it.

Similar to other Hypersound products, the Glass might also be useful for people with hearing loss. Because the sound that directional speakers produce is so focused it’s more like wearing headphones than what you would think of as “speaker sound”. For that same reason, Hypersound Glass might find its way into things like ATM screens, where privacy is key.

Highly directional sound isn’t a particularly new concept — with early entrants in the market like Holosonic producing commercial models since 2000 — it just never quite caught on at a consumer level. Glass also isn’t a novel material for driving sound: we’ve seen plenty of glass speakers in the past. But the two existing technologies have never been combined successfully before. Turtle Beach is mainly known for its gaming-focused products, but the company appears to be putting serious resources behind these laser-like speakers.

We’ll know more about the Hypersound Glass when a prototype model debuts at E3 this year.