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Dolby Laboratories was founded by Ray Dolby. I always thought he was English, but it turns out he was American, although the company was indeed founded in Britain, back in 1965, hence my confusion. It moved to San Francisco a couple of years later. For years, their office was at the end of Potrero Street on what I think of as the only roundabout in California (there probably really are others). Now it is on Market Street near Twitter and Uber. Ray himself died a couple of years ago.
Their first technology was Dolby Type A noise reduction, intended for professional use. Oversimplifying, this worked to reduce high-frequency background noise (such as tape hiss) by boosting the volume of high-frequency signals during recording, and reducing the volume of high-frequency signals on playback, so that the signal itself was unchanged but the background noise was reduced. What we as consumers thought of as Dolby on our cassette decks back in the 1970s was Dolby Type B, which was the consumer version of the technology.
One clever thing that Dolby did, perhaps the first company to do so, was to insist that any equipment that incorporated the noise reduction technology had to display the Dolby name and logo on the outside. ARM used to do the same back when I was at VLSI in charge of the ARM relationship: any chip containing an ARM processor had to have the "ARM powered" logo on it. More than once I had to do the walk of shame and apologize to ARM when they caught us not doing it. Looking at photos of Apple's Ax chips, the A5 chip mentions ARM in the labeling on the package, but by A9 that has gone away. I don't know if lesser companies still need to put the logo on or not. Anyway, the ubiquity of Dolby on cassette decks in that era, along with the fact that the name of the company appeared on the control panel of every one, made Dolby a household name.
Over the years, Dolby Labs have introduced numerous audio technologies. One of the most recent, introduced in 2012, is Dolby Atmos, a technology for cinemas adding overhead sound, and so creating a full three-dimensional sound stage. It was first used for Pixar's movie Brave. A new version of the technology then went down to the non-professional level, home theater, with the first television show to adopt it being Game of Thrones. I'm guessing you hear those dragons flying overhead.
The next step will be to make the technology available through regular TVs at a much lower price point. To do that, Dolby and Cadence have been working together on the world's first TV with Dolby Atmos. This is actually an early version of MS-12 v2.0 with limited availability for early adopters. MS-12 v2.0 is the Dolby Multistream Decoder that provides TV, set-top box, and IC manufacturers with a solution for decoding all premium audio content worldwide—broadcast, file-based, OTT/VOD services, and pay-TV operators.
The technology enables delivery of the encompassing sound experience of Atmos through regular TV speakers. This more immersive experience puts the listener inside the action with advanced spatial precision that places and moves individual sounds in three-dimensional space, even overhead. You might think that this requires speakers attached to the ceiling, but in fact it projects sound upwards, and bounces it off the ceiling.
Under the hood, MS12 v2.0 is powered by a Tensilica HiFi DSP. It decodes Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, HE- AAC, all AAC bitstreams, Dolby AC-4, and Dolby Atmos.
For more details, either come and see Cadence at CES (south hall 2, ground floor, Meeting Place suite MP25677), or look at the HiFi DSP product page.
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