In the wide world of gaming audio, it can be hard to be surprising – but that’s exactly what the HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion is. Last week, the folks over at Flexound, makers over the HUMU sent me an email letting me know about their recently launched IndieGoGo campaign and offered to send me one to try for myself. We’ll share our full review soon, but for now, I’ve used it for about a week and have some thoughts on HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion.
First off, what exactly is Augmented Audio? In essence, it’s sound you can feel. The HUMU cushion features a unique Elastic Vibrating Element underneath the soft foam cushion. Resting your head on the pillow, even moderate bass will vibrate the cushion against the sensitive area on the back of your neck. While the idea might sound simple – a pillow that vibrates with bass – that would be too reductive for what Flexound has pulled off here.
While the technology is unique, the closest analog to the Elastic Vibrating Element would be a bass transducer and a pair of near field speakers. This is not what’s taking place, as you can see in the picture above, but the effect is similar and able to deliver high quality positional audio. I haven’t put it through its paces to test how “HiFi” they are, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find they test well because they sound very good.
After reading the campaign’s promises of a “personal stereo soundscape,” I immediately loaded up The Verge’s binaural tour of New York City. The audio is recorded with a special ear-shaped microphone to accurately capture the true sound of the city. Usually, the effect falls flat without wearing a pair of headphones, but the HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion made it sound exactly like I was wearing a pair of surround sound headphones just by resting my head back. Feeling the subtle vibrations or passing traffic or powerful blast of a horn took the experience to a new level.
The pillow features bluetooth and 3.5mm line in connectivity (as well as Micro-USB for charging), so it’s fairly easy to get up and running. Connecting it to an Xbox One or PC is a little more difficult without a bluetooth dongle, but if you don’t mind a wire, it’s an easy connection.
Where the HUMU really shines is with movies and games. The bass rumble really is more immersive. Hunkering down to hide from a tank has never been more captivating. It’s not limited to big blasts, however. The transducer is sensitive and offers a wide range of feedback levels, so even deep cellos in a soundtrack will trigger it. There were times it even gave me chills.
For movies, it makes kicking back on your couch a bit like sitting back in a theater. Paired with the Oculus Go and the many virtual theaters and experiences on offer and it’s easy to see just how well it fits with any form of seated VR. If you have a VR headset, this cushion is absolutely something you should try for yourself.
The other interesting feature of the HUMU is the near-field quality of the sound element, which means their audio output dissipates almost immediately outside the cushion. Other people in the room will still be able to hear everything you’re listening to on anything more than half volume or so, but it’s remarkable just how much the volume drops off simply lifting your head up. I wouldn’t use the cushion in bed next to my sleeping partner, but I could use it sitting on the same couch so long as the volume was low. Move across the room and you could get it fairly loud without too much disturbance.
At the moment, the biggest downside really comes down to connectivity. Having to connect a wire to use it with an Xbox or PC is a bit of a drag, but hardly falls on the shoulders of Flexound. What does fall on their shoulders is not including any kind of auxiliary cable to make that connection.
After a little less than a week, I’m impressed. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, head over to their IndieGoGo page to find out more and stay tuned here for our full review in the next couple weeks.