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Kia’s Innovative Audio Tech Lets Passengers Listen To Different Music Without Headphones

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This should put an end to family disputes on long journeys.

We've probably all been forced to listen to somebody else's terrible headache-inducing music during a long car journey at some point. Thankfully, Kia is aiming to make this frustration a thing of the past.

The Korean automaker is working on a new type of car audio system that allows each passenger to listen to different audio, whether it's music, a podcast, or a hands-free telephone call. And it doesn't even require headphones. This should reduce family squabbles since parents sat in the front can listen to some relaxing jazz or classical music, while the kids blare out some pop music in the back, for example. Kia has been working on this innovative audio tech, which it calls "Separated Zone technology," since 2014 and says it should be ready to install in future models within the next couple of years. So how does it work?

According to Kia, the system works by isolating acoustic fields of the car like noise-cancelling headphones. The many speakers installed in the car feature technology that "uses scientific principles to reduce or increase audio levels of sound waves." This creates separate sound zones, allowing passengers to listen to something different to what the driver is hearing.

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"Customers in the autonomous navigation era will demand increasingly customizable entertainment options within their vehicles, which includes technological innovations such as the Separated Sound System." said Kang-duck Ih, Research Fellow at Kia's NVH Research Lab. "I hope by providing drivers and passengers with tailored, independent audio spaces, they will experience a more comfortable and entertaining transportation environment."

Since people's music tastes vary, passengers often resort to using headphones during a journey to drown out the main audio, but this restricts social interaction between passengers. With Kia's SSZ technology, each passenger can connect their smartphone via Bluetooth and listen to their own music without interference from, or interfering with, other passenger's audio streams. Private phone calls can also be isolated to individual passengers.