Harman's latest audio tech is designed for in-car concerts

Due to COVID-19, livestreams and drive-in shows are very popular.

Concert venues around the world have been closed for nearly 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Artists have turned to livestreams and socially-distanced drive-in shows to earn some revenue while they can’t tour, and so fans have something to look forward to. Samsung subsidiary Harman has recognized the uptick in livestreamed and drive-in concerts and has developed new in-car audio tech in a bid to improve the experience. The entertainment system in most cars is... fine — likely better if you have a newer model or splurged for a luxury vehicle that’s better equipped (or installed aftermarket gear). However, even then, the setup isn’t designed to handle live performances per se, especially things like applause and crowd noise. And, well, two-way interactions.

With its Live Interactive Virtual Experience (L.I.V.E.) platform, Harman says it can bring “remote and socially distant concertgoers the ability to directly interact with the venue, the artist and the music” from their cars or even their homes. The system is a two-way setup, allowing fans to “cheer, make song requests, vote for the next song played or request that a specific instrument be featured in the next solo” as a means of interacting with the band or musician. On the other side, performers can receive these messages and respond accordingly. There’s also a “fan space” hub that gives the artist a sense of the “energy, enthusiasm and applause from fans directly to the artist via in-venue screens and lighting elements.” Obviously, this goes beyond the chat window most livestream platforms currently offer.

Harman says L.I.V.E. can be deployed in software beyond the car, including apps for desktop and mobile. With those, fans can select a variety of camera angles and use the company’s Personi-Fi technology to customize the audio to their sonic preferences. The whole thing runs on 5G, which enables real-time access to bios, lyrics and even info on an instrument featured in a specific song.

Harman Personal Audio Headrest

For cars specifically, Harman is debuting a new feature called Personal Audio Headrest. Like the name suggests, the tech provides a more immersive surround sound experience that can be customized according to your preferences. What’s more, 3D spatial audio is available here, and the company promises “the most detailed levels of acoustic personalization.” Harman says the Personal Audio Headrest platform is now available for automakers to build into upcoming vehicles, so it could be a while before you’re able to buy a car that offers it.

Both L.I.V.E. and the headrest audio setup are part of Harman’s wider ExP push for in-car tech. The company’s latest concepts also include setups that turn your car into a better venue for gaming or a creative studio to boost productivity.