Nowadays, technology that was once was limited to certain specialized businesses, is being commercialized more broadly for the general public. While the technology behind surround sound technology has been around since the 1970s, Kazuyuki Ito brought it into the 21st century by inventing a way to convert any kind of sound source into 3D audio through a specially developed encoding system. To get his sound system to market, he founded the company KISSonix Inc. in 2014 and dedicated his work to providing a high-quality, enjoyable sound environment through the KISSonix 3D System.
Entertainment has always been a billion-dollar industry, but recently it has experienced unprecedented growth. This development has occurred in part due to advances in audio–visual technology and in part due to demand. People are no longer limited to movie theaters or concert halls, as consumers can enjoy their favorite movies or music from their portable devices or through their professional home theaters. Gamers, too, are no longer required to head to the local arcade to play their favorite video games; in fact, they can now play against one another without ever leaving their living room couch.
Recognizing this shift in the industry, Kazuyuki Ito, a successful Japanese composer, used technological innovations to further develop 3D sound generation. Mr. Ito hopes to one day replace stereophonic sound – based on two audio speakers (left and right) – with 3D audio, which allows users to receive audio from all directions in a manner that mimics real life. Such a system offers users the chance to experience the immersive audio of a live concert or sporting event from the comfort of their own homes.
Mr. Ito spent a long time figuring out how to write software that would effectively convert audio from regular sound sources to 3D audio, without jeopardizing the quality of sound. In addition to this, he also had to determine how best to bring such high-quality sound technology to the masses; not only to professionals and sound enthusiasts.
After a long period of research and development (R&D), Mr. Ito was able to develop software, KISSonix HDFX, which provides superb 3D audio from any regular audio source, without the need to change the usual equipment that people already use. His software solution allows ordinary stereophonic sound devices – such as a car sound system, or any set of speakers – to easily outperform preexisting technologies such as the 5.1-channel surround sound systems, which require the use of multiple speakers.
In addition, the software’s ease of usage makes it possible to potentially integrate the KISSonix 3D technology in the audio systems of a wide variety of everyday devices such as TVs, computers, smartphones, cars, etc.
The technology developed by Mr. Ito seems very promising, but how exactly does KISSonix 3D work?
Ordinary stereophonic devices simply project sounds from two different sources in an indistinct manner, while a typical surround sound system requires strategic placement of multiple speakers around the listener. Mr. Ito developed software that is able to encode regular audio to 3D by adjusting the sound arrangement in a well-balanced manner so that high-quality audio is all-encompassing.
The development of the algorithm for KISSonix 3D draws on Mr. Ito's years of experience in the music industry in combination with neuroscience principles.
Humans transform the vibration of the cilia in the inner ear into an electric signal. The direction and the distance of the sound are determined by the auditory cortex of the brain. In other worlds, it is the brain, not the ears, that recognizes the sound.Kazuyuki Ito, CEO of KISSonix Inc.
The software is compatible with audio files of conventional digital sound formats, such as .mp3, .mp4, and .wav files, providing users with flexibility across multiple audio devices. Moreover, the software is currently being integrated into virtual reality (VR) headsets to enhance the 360-degree experience that such technology can offer.
Since the core technology behind KISSonix 3D is the software, it does not require any special hardware, i.e. it can run on any computer or smartphone app. At present, however, it requires a computer with greater processing power than the average consumer uses to achieve such results.
To overcome this limitation, Mr. Ito developed a prototype for the world's first HDMI-compatible 3D sound speakers specifically built to include the encoding software, which automatically converts any regular audio input to 3D audio. In other words, the end user does not have to have the technical knowledge to operate sound editing software, nor does he/she need to invest in a more powerful processing system. Mr. Ito plans to commercialize his KISSonix HDFX technology through a set of compact speakers, KISSonix HDS4, beginning with a crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter.
The technology offers not only the same quality of stereophonic sound, but also the same 3D acoustics of surround sound – normally requiring three or more speakers, money and space -- with only two speakers. Furthermore, for a good surround sound system to achieve an all-encompassing direction of sound it is necessary to place additional speakers on the ceiling. With the revolutionary 3D audio encoding technology of KISSonix Inc., listeners can experience high-quality, cinematic sound from the comfort of their own homes.
Mr. Ito is aware that his product could be popular not only with the average consumer, but also with the entertainment industry. For example, during the few last years the musician has done some 3D audio mixing in collaboration with film directors for soundtracks, as well as with musicians, such as Koda Kumi, for whom he mixed KISSonix 3D sound for her BD/DVD release of “KODA KUMI LIVE TOUR 2017 – W FACE”. This has led to attention and praise from the media for KISSonix 3D.
Mr. Ito has also started developing partnerships that would allow him to demonstrate the full potential of his product. For example, the company has installed KISSonix 3D in permanent venues called “sound spaces” at two locations in Tokyo (Shibuya and Kachidoki) in order to showcase his sound quality to the general public. Similarly, KISSonix 3D can be heard in 360-degree 3D movie theaters in selected theme parks across Japan, such as Cosmo World in Yokohama.
Through other initiatives, KISSonix Inc. has also provided its KISSonix 3D tech at large promotional events for companies, such as Mazda Motor Co., Bandai Co., Ltd., and Walmart Inc., which are interested in his 3D sound technology. Finally, Mr. Ito also engages in activities aimed towards individual consumers, by assisting in the development of 3D ringtones, videogames, CDs and BDs/DVDs.
Mr. Ito is making great efforts to commercialize his invention, but in order to protect his product in the market he must also consider his IP portfolio.
The first IP protection he sought was for the trademark of the name of the company, “KISSonix”. He applied for a trademark for “KISSonix” in 2014 for goods under Nice class 9 (computer software for processing digital music files, audio signal processing devices) and for services under Nice class 41 (providing video and sound using computer networks, dubbing/editing of sound data to recording medium, production of master disk of recording medium recording music). The trademark was granted in 2016.
When it came to the software itself, Mr. Ito reflected intensely on whether or not to patent his 3D audio invention, i.e. the encoding software. In the end, he decided it would be better to not apply for a patent, due to the fact that in order to receive patent protection, an inventor must publicly disclose a detailed explanation of the patented technology. Instead, the company chose to protect this core part of their product by keeping it a trade secret, which would prevent him from being required to share his invention with the public, and, thus, any competitors.
Even if third parties were to try to reverse engineer the technology it would be very difficult.Kazuyuki Ito, CEO of KISSonix Inc.