HP Labs

An innovative HP Labs audio processing technology debuts in two HP All-in–One Computers

By Simon Firth, HP Labs Correspondent — September 25, 2018

HP Envy Curved All-in-One PC

Photo courtesy of HP

HP Envy Curved All-in-One PC

An HP Labs audio innovation that significantly improves the experience of viewing cinematic content on desktop displays recently debuted in several HP All-in-one computers.

The technology, dubbed HP Immersive Audio and profiled in a previous HP Labs Blog post, uses advanced software processing to reproduce the immersive sound experience of a movie theatre in today’s increasingly slim consumer hardware devices.

After extensive testing and refinement, HP Immersive Audio has now been integrated into the HP Envy Curved 34 All-in-One and HP Pavilion 24 and 27 All-in-One PC.

“It’s hard to imagine a more compelling cinematic sound experience than we’re delivering with these all-in-ones,” suggests Pierre-Antoine Robineau, Consumer desktop product management lead in the HP Personal Systems Group. “This is a great example of the game-changing innovations that result from our close working relationship with HP Labs.”

This particular technology transfer began with Emerging Compute Lab researcher Sunil Bharitkar asking how he could improve the audio experience  on HP devices through software alone. It didn’t take Bharitkar, an accomplished innovator in his field, long to figure out the best technical approach.

“But it’s one thing to prove out an idea in a lab setting,” he says. “It’s a larger and more complex undertaking to get it working in specific commercial products.”

That effort took Bharitkar and HP Fellow Will Allen to experts in HP’s Imaging and Printing group in Vancouver, Washington who conduct subjective assessments of image and video quality. “The Quality Evaluation team there has access to some really good expertise and were able to help us confirm that we were on the right track in terms of subjective test setup and statistical analysis,” Bharitkar reports.

 

 “This is a great example of the game-changing innovations that result from our close working relationship with HP Labs.”

Pierre-Antoine Robineau, Consumer desktop product management lead in the HP Personal Systems Group.

Their key partners, however, were in the Personal Systems business group, which oversees the creation of HP PCs, displays, accessories, software, and immersive computing solutions. In particular, colleagues in the group’s Customer Experience and Portfolio Strategy (CEPS) team oversaw the logistics of shepherding the technology into its first HP products. That process included further perceptual testing by teams in both Vancouver, Washington and Houston, Texas.

It also required liaising with Sound Research, a long time HP partner tasked with transforming the new HP Labs algorithms for the Microsoft Windows operating system, and with Bang & Olufsen, which played a critical role in tuning the new algorithms to work with maximum impact on the physical speakers installed in the HP All-in-ones debuting the technology.

HP Immersive Audio started drawing rave reviews even before it was installed in its first HP product. “One tester at Bang and Olufsen reported that it was the best implementation of spatial virtualization he’d ever heard,” notes Bharitkar.

Despite the technology being specifically optimized for enjoying immersive cinematic content and designed to be switched off when listening to music or voice recordings, he explains, “many users seem to want to keep it turned on all the time.”

Currently, users must manually switch into or out Immersive Audio mode. But Bharitkar and his team are now getting ready to implement a low-complexity machine learning algorithm for determining the classes of streaming content (movie, music, sports) being consumed and switching to the appropriate processing mode in real time.

“We’re also looking to implement a low frequency extension to our algorithms to create more impactful explosions and rumbles,” Bharitkar says. “That involves doing some additional processing using psychoacoustic and auditory perception tricks that will fake your brain into believing there's low frequency when there's none.”

An additional research program, conducted in collaboration with HP’s Immersive Experiences Lab (IXL) and the HP VR development group in Ft. Collins, Colorado, is exploring how deep learning techniques can enable a real-time synthesis of inter-aural cues for enhancing virtual reality (VR) experiences. Work developed by this multi-disciplinary team has been nominated for the Best Paper Award at the 10th IEEE Asia Pacific Signal and Information Processing Conference being held this November in Hawaii.

In the meantime, the transfer of HP Immersive Audio into HP devices is set to continue. 

“We’ve already demonstrated that HP Immersive Audio makes a significant difference to the HP sound experience,” notes Barbara Pickering, Innovation Manager in the Personal Systems group’s Customer Experience and Portfolio Strategy team. “So we’re expecting to expand to more HP desktop products soon and, potentially, to smaller devices like laptops as well.”