The EIT ICT Labs coached start-up 3D Sound Labs is about to launch Neoh, the first immersive virtual reality headphones aimed at general public. 3D Sound Labs already looks like a success story, by innovating quickly with partners, doing business at an international level by design, improving the quality of life and creating jobs in Europe. All what we like at EIT ICT Labs.
With the increase of mobility, the headphones market is booming: 286 M units sold worldwide in 2013, representing 8.4 billions USD, forecast up to 11.3 billions USD in 2017 (source: Futuresource Consulting). In 2014, Oculus broke the news when its immersive virtual reality headset business got acquired by Facebook. But if the image is becoming mobile and immersive, what about the sound? Today, the sound that you have between the ears, while watching a video, listening to music or playing a video game, is desperately not real, unless you install 5 big speakers in your living room and stay all day long inside. Apparently, no one thought about developing a mobile immersive reality for the ears. No one, except the French start-up 3D Sound Labs which is the first to propose the solution to the general public, with Neoh.
Neoh headphones are the first wearable home theatre system. They provide virtual spatial sound to enable the most immersive sound experience ever brought by technology. With Neoh, when you listen to a talk or a concert on stage, whatever your movements around your seat, the speaker or singer remain as a fixed audio source, like in the reality, and do not move with your head. What is fantastic is that it can work with any audio source, whatever the way it was recorded. You just need to install before an application on the device that you want to use, like an iPhone or an iPad as a start.
"It is our ecosystem of partners that allowed us to move on so fast."
In 2014, Xavier Bonjour, Dimitri Singer and Renaud Séguier - 3 seasoned technology professionals respectively issued from Business, Entrepreneurship and Education - founded 3D Sound Labs. Neoh was developed in only 1 year from research, partnering with Orange Labs and Centrale Supélec. To build Neoh, 3D Sound Labs took already existing bricks and cleverly developed upon them. At the end of the day, Neoh uses embedded motion sensors and advanced algorithms. If at 3D Sound Labs, all is written in English and the team is bilingual by design, R&D is based in Rennes, Brittany and production is made in Le Creusot, Burgundy in France. "If Neoh is set to be sold abroad, mainly in USA and Asia, we want to create jobs in Europe" says Xavier Bonjour, CEO of 3D Sound Labs.
Because they share the same vision of innovating and doing business, EIT ICT Labs and 3D Sound Labs were made to meet at some point. This happened during Idea Challenge European start-ups contest organised by EIT ICT Labs in 2014, in the final of the Health and Wellbeing category. Indeed 3D Sound Labs presented the next project that they are working on, aimed at improving the performance of hearing aids. Since then, the Business Development Accelerator coached the start-up mainly by enlarging its ecosystem with EIT ICT Labs network. 3D Sound Labs also gave Neoh as a business case among PhD students of EIT ICT Labs Doctoral School in Rennes so as to get new insights.
Now, Neoh is booming. The team showcased at CES in Las Vegas in January, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas in March and has just leveraged 1.1 M Euros via iSource funds and another 125 K USD on the crowd founding platform Kickstarter. Neoh will be available on pre-sales by the end of April on the website and sold in stores in June from 299 Euros incl. VAT. Xavier Bonjour plans to send soon some of his team to Silicon Valley. He might use the recent EIT ICT Labs hub in San Francisco to settle down for a while and connect with the local ecosystem. Indeed, this hub is meant to help European start-ups to tackle the US market. Since 3D Sound Labs have also plenty of projects in their boxes, they will also benefit from EIT ICT Labs Access to Finance, connecting with European Venture Capital. According to Xavier Bonjour, "virtual reality is a disruptive innovation and we are only at the very beginning." Long life, Neoh and 3D Sound Labs!