The audio cable was one of the first cords Bluetooth® technology cut. Stripping away the hassle of wires on headphones, speakers, and more, Bluetooth technology revolutionized audio and forever changed the way we consume media and experience the world. LE Audio will enhance the performance of Bluetooth audio, add support for hearing aids, and enable Auracast broadcast audio to power new products and use cases that will drive sustainable growth across the audio peripherals market. According to the 2022 Bluetooth Market Update, annual Bluetooth® Audio Streaming device shipments will experience a 1.4x growth from 2022 to 2026.

Realtek develops high-performance and cost-effective integrated circuit (IC) solutions for a wide range of applications in Bluetooth wearables, Bluetooth remote controls, Bluetooth headsets, and other end-user products. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Jim Liao, Marketing Director of Realtek Semiconductor Corp., about the solutions Realtek is developing with LE Audio and the potential for future applications of LE Audio.

Q&A with Jim Liao from Realtek

What products and solutions are you developing with LE Audio?

Realtek has two IC series that support full-featured LE Audio, covering both the transmitter and receiver markets. One is an intelligent AI platform where the power consumption of LE Audio is close to 3mA, and the other is designed for customers who intend to quickly enter the LE Audio market, providing easy-to-use editing tools and SDKs (software development kits) that enable fast development of LE Audio products for speedy market entry. Realtek unveiled the demo of true wireless stereos (TWS) and speakers that support LE Audio in October 2021 and recently launched a complete dongle SDK for LE Audio transmitters, which covers wireless one-to-many and many-to-one microphone solutions as well as the TV low-latency application market.


Auracast™ Broadcast Audio

Auracast™ broadcast audio will deliver life-changing audio experiences that will enhance the way you engage with others and the world around you.


What challenges in the market do these solutions address? 

LE Audio offers many benefits. With it, we will bring Broadcast Isochronous Stream (BIS) and Connected Isochronous Stream (CIS) applications to the market. For example, for one-to-many speaker broadcast, Bluetooth® speakers that hitherto claimed to offer Party Mode used private protocols with restrictions on use. Based on Auracast™ broadcast audio, any Bluetooth speaker can be interconnected across brands via standard protocols, removing  limitations and offering lower latency for a better user experience.

One-to-many or many-to-one wireless microphones are promising for the live streaming and AV markets. The private protocols, until now, support most microphones with one receiver and have high power consumption. They can barely meet the needs of broadcasters for 8 or even 12 hours of use a day. The LC3 codec, which provides better compression and smaller packet delivery, enables more resilient low-power one-to-many and many-to-one application designs.

We are also interested in lowering latency, which the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is exploring. With latency further improved in the future, the scalability associated with AV synchronization and AR/VR applications will be more promising. The applications based on LE Audio will also regard low latency as an important development direction, eliminating the limitation on audio and video synchronization in the future TWS market.

How will the introduction of Auracast™ broadcast audio to Bluetooth technology benefit consumers and enhance their audio experiences? 

Auracast™ broadcast audio will unmute televisions that were once silent.

LE Audio will bring many benefits to the audio market. Realtek believes that Auracast™ broadcast audio will thrive and bring new application scenarios, such as listening to boarding announcements at any time in airports and choosing your favorite shops and listening to their latest offers when passing through shopping malls. In public places, Auracast™ broadcast audio could unmute screens that were previously silent, allowing interested watchers to easily join the television’s audio broadcast using their personal Bluetooth devices without disturbing others.

What new directions will Realtek explore based on LE Audio R&D?

We are currently exploring hearing enhancement. With the lower power consumption and more efficient transmission enabled by LE Audio, Bluetooth® technology is expected to provide much more support for hearing aids to enhance the audio experience for people with hearing loss.


Auracast™ Broadcast Audio

Auracast™ broadcast audio will deliver life-changing audio experiences that will enhance the way you engage with others and the world around you.


Bluetooth®技術が最初にカットしたコードは、オーディオケーブルでした。ヘッドホンやスピーカーをはじめとするさまざまな製品との接続を「わずらわしい」ケーブルから解き放つことで、Bluetooth技術はオーディオに革新をもたらし、メディアを楽しみ世界を体験する方法を大きく変えました。さらにLE Audioでは、Bluetoothオーディオのパフォーマンス向上や補聴器対応の追加に加え、Auracast™ ブロードキャスト オーディオによりオーディオ周辺機器市場の持続的な成長を推進する、これまでにない製品やユースケースが可能になります。『2022年Bluetooth市場動向』では、Bluetooth®オーディオストリーミングデバイスの年間出荷台数が、2022年から2026年の間に1.4倍に拡大すると予想されています。

リアルテックは、Bluetoothのウェアラブル、リモコン、ヘッドセットなどの幅広いエンドユーザー製品用に、高性能で費用対効果に優れた集積回路(IC)ソリューションを開発しています。リアルテック・セミコンダクター(Realtek Semiconductor Corp.)のマーケティング・ディレクター、ジム・リャオ(Jim Liao)氏に、同社がLE Audioで進める開発と、LE Audioの将来的な応用について話を伺いました。


LE Audioを用い、どのような製品やソリューションを開発しているのでしょうか。

リアルテックでは、LE Audioの全機能を搭載したICが2シリーズあり、送信機と受信機の両方に対応しています。一つはLE Audioの電力消費が約3mAのインテリジェントなAIプラットフォーム。もう一つはLE Audio市場への早期参入を望む顧客向けに、製品の短期開発を可能にする使いやすい編集ツールとSDK(ソフトウェア開発キット)を用意しています。リアルテックは2021年10月にLE Audio対応のTWS(完全ワイヤレスステレオ)とスピーカーのデモ版を公開し、最近ではLE Audioトランスミッター用のドングルSDKを発売しました。こちらは、1対多および多対1のワイヤレスマイクと、TV用低遅延アプリケーションに対応しています。


LE Audioが提供する価値は幅広いものです。LE Audioにより、当社はブロードキャストアイソクロナスストリーム(BIS)とコネクテッドアイソクロナスストリーム(CIS)のアプリケーションを市場に届けることができるでしょう。たとえば、1対多のスピーカーのブロードキャストの場合、これまでのパーティーモードのBluetooth®スピーカーでは、使用に制限のある独自プロトコルを用いていました。Auracast™ ブロードキャスト オーディオであれば、ブランドが異なっていても標準的なプロトコルを介してBluetoothスピーカー同士の接続が可能です。つまり制約をなくし、遅延を抑えることで、ユーザー体験の向上をもたらすのです。


当社では低遅延性にも関心を寄せていますが、これはBluetooth SIGでも検討を進めている点です。将来的に遅延性がさらに改善されれば、音声と映像の同期やAR/VRアプリケーション関連での応用の拡大がより有望になるでしょう。低遅延性はLE Audioベースのアプリケーションにとっても、将来のTWS市場で音声と映像の同期の制約をなくしていくための重要な開発の方向性となるでしょう。

Bluetooth技術へのAuracast ブロードキャスト オーディオの導入は、消費者にとってどのようなメリットであり、どのようなオーディオ体験の向上につながるのでしょうか。

Auracast ブロードキャスト オーディオは消音されたテレビに音声を取り戻すでしょう。

LE Audioはオーディオ市場に数多くのメリットをもたらします。リアルテックでは、Auracast™ ブロードキャスト オーディオが成功を収め、新しいアプリケーションシナリオを生み出すと考えています。たとえば、空港で好きなタイミングで搭乗案内を聞いたり、お気に入りのショップを登録しておいて、ショッピングモールで店の前を通り過ぎたときに最新のセール情報を聞けることなどが考えられます。公共の場では、Auracast™ ブロードキャスト オーディオによって、これまで音を消されていた画面のミュートを解除し、音声を聞けるようになります。テレビの音声を聞きたいと思う視聴者は、周りの人に迷惑をかけることなく、ブロードキャストされているテレビ音声を自分のBluetoothデバイスで聞けるようになるのです。

リアルテックがLE Audioの研究開発に基づき検討を進めようとしている新しい方向性とはどのようなものでしょう。

現在、当社では聴覚補助に関する検討を進めています。LE Audioによって低電力消費と高効率伝送が可能になったことにより、補聴器に関連してBluetooth®技術の可能性が高まり、難聴の方々のオーディオ体験の向上にいっそうのサポートを提供できると期待しています。

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