Car trim becomes mobile multi-media centre

UK audio technology specialist NXT is claiming a breakthrough in its automotive programme after turning a people carrier into a multi-media paradise.

UK audio technology specialist NXT is claiming a breakthrough in its automotive programme after turning a people carrier into a multi-media paradise – without a conventional loudspeaker in sight.

NXT said the Chrysler Town & County MPV, which went on show for the first time in Las Vegas last week, was a ‘milestone’ in integrating its SurfaceSound ‘flat speaker’ system into a production vehicle.

NXT has used SurfaceSound to turn sections of the Chrysler’s instrumentation and trim into a five-channel Dolby Digital 5.1 audio system.

SurfaceSound uses tiny ‘exciters’, typically no more than 4cm wide, to disperse complex vibrations over a much larger rigid panel. This can turn a wide variety of everyday surfaces into high quality loudspeakers.

In the Chrysler, the instrument panel is used to create the centre, left and right channels. The two surround channels come from side trim near the third row of seats. NXT’s engineers also installed three wide-screen LCD monitors, giving passengers what the company claims is a ‘home theatre’ audio-visual experience on the move.

Peter O’Brien, a director in NXT’s automotive division, said the Chrysler conversion was a major step towards the company’s goal of seeing a vehicle equipped with its technology in production by 2005.

‘This is a milestone,’ said O’Brien. ‘We have taken a standard production version, stripped out the audio system put there by the OEM and produced a sound that we believe is superior to the current Chrysler specification.’

O’Brien said the Chrysler’s standard sound system needed up to nine loudspeakers. ‘We have replaced them with five of our exciters integrated into the vehicle’s panels. That saves a lot of space and weight, and is visually more pleasing.’

NXT will use the Chrysler to further raise the profile of its technology in the US, where it is already included in all concept vehicles being developed by General Motors.

O’Brien said the company was in talks with other US manufacturers, but refused to confirm whether DaimlerChrysler was among them.

NXT has also recently made inroads into the automotive supplier community. During the last two months it has signed licensing agreements with three major component producers including Visteon, one of the world’s biggest Tier 1 suppliers.

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