Bluetooth Auracast is everywhere at CES 2024. So, what is it?

One of the key advantages of Bluetooth LE Audio is Auracast: a way to broadcast content to connected devices in public settings. It will also allow you to easily connect multiple wireless speakers to each other with diving into an app. Perhaps most importantly, the barrier to entry is going to be very low since a dedicated Auracast app will be built into mobile platforms like iOS and Android. What’s more, you’ll select available channels like you would a Bluetooth device or a Wi-Fi network. It’s simple, and it’s presented in a way that people who’ve used a smartphone are familiar with. Auracast has been mentioned constantly by companies announcing their new audio gear at CES 2024, so here’s what you need to know about it. 

What is Auracast?

Simply put, Auracast is broadcast audio over Bluetooth. An Auracast transmitter, which in public settings can be a pro-grade add-on to a TV or a box that looks like a Wi-Fi router mounted on the wall. You can also create your own channels from a phone or laptop to share music of the sound from a TV show. This means that you’ll be able to have the audio from muted airport TVs beamed to your headphones or earbuds when traveling. Auracast will also allow you to keep tabs on flight and gate information without interrupting your layover entertainment. 

During its CES demo, Bluetooth SIG, the organization that defines Bluetooth standards, allowed show-goers to experience the aforementioned airport TV scenario. It was easy to switch between two sports broadcasts in a faux bar, simply by tapping one or the other in the Auracast menu. Another tap let us hear a private stream from a laptop, which was password protected so only the proper invitees can access it. There’s also a use case where live audio from a lecture or performance can be broadcast via Auracast directly to earbuds, hearing aids or other Bluetooth listening devices. Impressively, there’s no lag across any of the options as the visuals matched up perfectly each time. 

Bluetooth LE Audio Auracast TV transmitter

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

“The analogy I would use is very similar to setting up a personal hotspot,” Chuck Saban, senior director for market development at the Bluetooth, explained about those private Auracasts. “You would set up a personal audio hotspot, it’s going to be encrypted, and then anybody who is around me who has that passcode can listen.”

Auracast will also help you link multiple Bluetooth speakers together at the press of a button. Until now, most companies had you select the devices in an app. But companies like JBL are putting dedicated Auracast buttons on some of their new devices. On the company’s PartyBox line, for example, you’ll press the button on the main speaker you connected to your phone and then all you have to do is press the button on successive units to link them. What’s more, you can chain together an infinite number of speakers in this scenario. 

What devices is Auracast available on?

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

Auracast is a feature of Bluetooth LE Audio that arrived with Bluetooth 5.2. So technically, any earbuds, headphones, hearing aids, speakers and other devices that have that version of the wireless standard will be able to tune into Auracast. However, Bluetooth 5.3 offers a more robust implementation of the broadcast audio tool. 

“What you get with 5.3 is the ISOC channels capability in the core that allows multiple independent channel capabilities,” Saban said. “You effectively can parse out the left and right [channels] from the source itself.” He further explained that the processing of all of that has been moved to the phone from the earbuds or headphones themselves, which extends battery life, performance and efficiency for Bluetooth devices. 

When will Auracast be available?

Plenty of Bluetooth devices support Bluetooth 5.2 or 5.3 and LE Audio. Since Auracast is part of Bluetooth, there’s no extra tech needed to include it, the products just need to support the recent versions of the wireless standard. From there, it’s up to the individual companies to flip the switch on LE Audio and Auracast. Over the course of 2023 and here at CES, tons of audio brands have said they are planning to add support for the feature via over-the-air updates later in 2024. 

We’re reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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