Loudspeaker manufacturers are increasingly investing in beam steering technology to realise better sonic experiences in difficult acoustic environments. And Berlin-based company Holoplot is taking a radically different approach, introducing what it claims to be an innovative technology with unprecedented flexibility in the creation of sonic experiences.
The company develops software and hardware products based on wave field synthesis that enable precise, real-time adjustment of loudspeaker directivity, wavefront synthesis and fully flexible beam steering, both vertically and horizontally. Its technology is pushing the audio industry to rethink existing methods, improving sonic experiences across industry sectors and delivering new levels of speech intelligibility and homogeneous coverage over long distances and unique immersive soundscapes.
With advances in DSP technology, Holoplot has successfully embedded many years of research into the company’s proprietary algorithms. The brain behind the technology is German audio engineer, Helmut Oellers. Together with Adrián Lara Moreno, Holoplot’s CTO, and a small team of engineers, he embarked on the mission to find a solution to the authentic reproduction of sound in any environment in 2011. The basis for his research was the Huygens principle of wave field synthesis.
Briefly put, wave field synthesis is a spatial audio reproduction procedure which does not depend on psychoacoustic phantom sources. Instead, it creates a physical copy of the original wavefront, using a high number of smaller elementary waves according to the principle. This allows for the recreation of virtually all sound sources. Holoplot has transformed this technology into a matrix loudspeaker system that increases flexibility of sound design with numerous benefits for today’s applications.
Roman Sick, CEO, who had been involved with the development team, took over the company in 2016 to focus on building, marketing and selling a viable product, currently based around its ORION Series launched in 2018 – consisting of the Io Audio Module, the Eta Processing Core and ORBIT Software. He comments on the business focus for the company: “Our current main markets are in Europe and the United States. However, there are a lot of interesting projects worldwide. In the near future, we are planning to develop more international markets, as the Chinese market has great potential for us. This market stands out especially for its focus on the creation of unique experiences, fast growth in infrastructure and the sheer number of projects.
“We are working closely with our local partners to introduce our wave field synthesis technology into a number of projects. In the winter of 2016, we established a partnership with Deutsche Bahn and started first test installations at train stations, with very positive results, by delivering outstanding speech intelligibility over a distance of more than 180m with one centralised loudspeaker array. 2018 was a milestone year for us. Holoplot was awarded with the reputed PLASA Innovation Award. At the same time, Holoplot was awarded the Deutsche Bahn Supplier Innovations Award for being its most innovative supplier.”
The ORION Series, manufactured in Berlin, has the Eta Core at the heart of its technology, and processes all audio signals. Each Eta Core is capable of supporting up to 64 Holoplot Io Audio Modules using Dante. Sick adds: “The decision to go with Dante back then was quite easy, as we wanted to have an industry standard network interface that would allow the user to easily connect to our system. Dante was our preferred choice.”
The Orbit software interface allows easy handling of all situations, ranging from simple to complex configurations. Multiple audio wave fronts can be configured, from spherical, planar to focus. Sources can be repositioned with a click of a button to find a perfect fit. Sound field visualisation allows users to witness the formation of the sound field for each virtual source in real time and understand how this will impact the audience or environment. It is also possible to synchronise multiple interfaces and controllers of the same system in real time and manage multiple systems through one or multiple interfaces.
The company's technology has been successfully deployed across the conference, retail and transportation hub sectors. In 2018, the company was in charge of audio at a major Berlin HR conference called Hiring Success held at the Glashaus, Berlin, featuring 250
top executives, thought leaders, founders, investors and start ups. The conference is organised by SmartRecruiters, an organisation that helps companies attract, select, and hire talent with their Talent Acquisition Suite. Holoplot was approached by Openers, the event’s organiser, to supply a system for two adjacent stages that would be able to provide high speech intelligibility and constant volume across the entire audience for each stage. These results were realised with the 3D beam forming capabilities of the Holoplot technology.
By focusing the sound energy to each audience area with precision, room reflections and spillover effects to the adjacent stage areas were minimised. Sick adds: “It is our mission to make every seat the best seat. This means that the speech quality should be equal at each listener position in the audience. Our technology, with its capabilities to synthesise various wavefronts whilst freely adjusting the directivity and radiation pattern of the loudspeaker in the space, can increase the direct-to- reverberant ratio in precisely defined areas. At the same time, room reflections from the environment will also be minimised.”
In the retail sector, Holoplot is also making a significant impact. In early 2018, it became involved with an installation for the global production company satis&fy at a concept store project in Portland, USA, named LIFT, to demonstrate the capabilities of a new type of consumer experience. satis&fy's client for the concept store is a world leader in sports fashion and sports equipment. ORION was chosen to deliver two isolated sonic zones, each providing distinct audio content simultaneously in a single acoustic space. This was augmented with highly localised auditory product promotion at a specific location within the store.
With such diverse clients coming from different industries, including architects, conference and experiential designers and event designers, these are exciting times for the company.
Sick concludes by looking ahead: “Holoplot will keep improving the ORION series as well as developing new products based on our technology stack. We will further expand our distribution reach to a global span through our network of international partners.”