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Ceva-Waves Links Multi-Protocol Wireless Connectivity IP

I’m afraid that (what I laughingly refer to as) my mind is wandering (as is its wont). It knows it’s supposed to write about multi-protocol wireless IP, but it’s been beguiled by thoughts of headphones equipped with the latest and greatest in 3D spatial audio boasting state-of-the-art headtracking resulting in a new level of immersive experience.

What the heck. Let’s start with the headphones and see where they lead us (I know you’re surprised). The history of headphones is interesting. For example, have you ever wondered where the “phone” portion of the moniker came from? In fact, this dates to the 1880s when telephone switchboard operators wished to free up their hands while working their apparatus. A clamp was used to hold the receiver portion of the telephone against one of the operator’s ears, resulting in the singular “headphone.”

By the early 1900s, wireless telegraph operators were using a pair of jointly-mounted telephone receivers to listen to the signal from the receiver. Initially, these two head-mounted telephone receivers were called in the singular form “head telephones.” It wasn’t long, however, before this type of headpiece began to be referred to as “headphones.”

Have you heard of an Indian company called boAt? If not, you might want to start paying attention to these folks, because they are now the #1 wearables company in India and the #2 wearables company in the world after Apple (this ranking is in terms of volume, not revenue, although the century is still young).

At CES 2024, boAt announced and demonstrated their (now released) Nirvana Eutopia Spatial Audio headphones, whose dynamic head tracking capabilities dramatically enhance the spatial audio experience. What we are talking about here is headphones equipped with a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope, the combination of which can be used to accurately and precisely track the motion of the wearer’s head.

Nirvana Eutopia Spatial Audio headphones (Source: boAt)

Suppose you are watching a concert like Pink Floyd performing The Dark Side of the Moon on your 85” television, for example. (I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I saw Pink Floyd perform this live at an open-air concert at Knebworth back in 1975.)

Until now, I would have said that the only thing better than the live experience is to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon on a pair of stereo headphones (I also strongly recommend Dub Side of the Moon). Now, I’d have to modify this to say “…on a pair of 3D spatial audio headphones with headtracking.” Simply turning your head to one side or the other can be used by the headphones to increase the volume in one ear and decrease the volume in the other. This may seem like a small thing, but it dramatically increases the sense of immersion and “being there.”

Having said this, it will be with games and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) where this 3D spatial audio awareness technology really begins to shine (well, the audio equivalent to “shine”—you know what I mean). Suppose you hear a sound like running feet approaching from your left (so most of the volume is in your left ear), for example. As the headphones detect you turning your head toward the perceived source of the sound, they can adjust the sound presented to both of your ears to reflect the location of the source in this 3D world. Once again, this dramatically increases the sense of immersion and “being there.”

These headphones started to appear on the streets (well, on people’s ears) in April. Do people like them? Well, they are already sold out and on backorder. In addition to the aforementioned 3D spatial audio with headtracking, they also boast ENx, which is a version of environmental noise cancellation (ENC). In this case, Nirvana Eutopia headphones employ two microphones on each ear to better cancel out any background noise.

There’s a bunch of other stuff we could talk about, but we have other poisson à frire (fish to fry). Suffice it to say that—while I await my own set of Nirvana Eutopia headphones to arrive (as far as I know, they are not yet available in the USA, but I know a man who knows a man… sort of thing)—I just ran across this Boat Nirvana Eutopia headphones unboxing and first immersion video on YouTube, and it’s safe to say I wouldn’t argue with anything I heard in this presentation.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I was just chatting with Moshe Sheier, who is VP of Marketing at CEVA. We live in a rapidly changing world. When I last looked, CEVA was known as Ceva DSP. As of December 2023, however, they’ve rebranded themselves as Ceva IP to reflect the fact that they are one of the world’s leading suppliers of the intellectual property (IP) blocks other companies use to power their system-on-chip (SoC) devices.

In a crunchy nutshell, Ceva has now been licensing IP for more than two decades. Thus far, 17 billion Ceva-powered devices have shipped, with 1.6 billion shipping in 2023 alone. Ceva has more than 200 registered patents, more than 500 employees, and more than $150 million cash in the bank with no debt, all of which puts them in an enviable position in these trying and uncertain times.

Ceva’s highly leverageable technology portfolio includes wireless communication IP (they power more than a billion new devices each year), scalable edge AI sensing IP, and embedded application software IP. The end markets for Ceva IP include, but are not limited to, consumer IoT, automotive, infrastructure, industrial, computers, and mobile devices.

As just one example of where we might expect to find these IP offerings, we need look no further than boAt’s Nirvana Eutopia headphones, which include Bluetooth IP, Audio/AI DSP IP, and Audio and Headtracking Software IP—all from Ceva! (“Ah ha,” you say, “so that’s why he’s been waffling on about those headphones that I’d previously never heard of and now so desperately desire”).

And, finally, we come to the reason for this column (yes, of course there’s a reason), which is that Ceva’s Connectivity IP is now unified in the form of Ceva-Waves Links, which is a versatile family of multi-protocol wireless platform IPs. This integrated offering encompasses the latest wireless standards to address the surging demand for connectivity-rich chips (SoCs, MCUs, etc.) targeting smart edge devices in the consumer IoT, industrial, automotive, personal computing, and other markets.

Ceva-Waves Links (Source: Ceva)

Ceva-Waves Links leverages the industry-leading Ceva-Waves Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IEEE 802.15.4 (for Thread / Matter and Zigbee) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) IPs to offer integration-friendly wireless solutions to accelerate the development of connectivity-rich SoCs.

The first member of the Ceva-Waves Links family, the Links100, is an integrated, low power, Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / 15.4 communications subsystem IP for IoT applications, with the following key features:

  • Wi-Fi 6 optimized for cost-sensitive IoT applications.
  • Bluetooth 5.4 Dual Mode, supporting advanced Bluetooth Audio with Auracast, and with a comprehensive suite of Bluetooth profiles.
  • IEEE 802.15.4 (for Thread, ZigBee, Matter) for smart home applications.
  • Optimized co-existence scheme for efficient concurrent communications.
  • Pre-integrated with a low power multi-protocol radio at TSMC 22nm process.

The future of wireless connectivity is multi-protocol (Source: Ceva)

If you are a designer of SoCs, MCUs, or related devices, I will leave you cogitating and ruminating on the possibilities for your next multi-protocol-powered design. For myself, I fear my poor old noggin is focused on the imminent arrival of my Nirvana Eutopia headphones. My ears are quivering in anticipation (it’s not a pretty sight) at the thought of experiencing a new immersive experience featuring 3D spatial audio. How about you? Do you have any thoughts you’d care to share on anything you’ve seen here?


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