While Android 9 does not support multi-zone audio, the Android audio teams have explored several possible approaches to multi-zone audio. This section provides details on some of these approaches that might be helpful to system implementers setting out to build rear-seat entertainment (RSE) solutions.
- Radio in rear seats plays simultaneously with different media sources in front seats.
- Front seat passenger hears a different media source than the driver (e.g. passenger plays a game on their own screen while driver views navigation on the main screen).
- Four different, independent audio zones: Driver, front seat passenger, rear seat 1, rear-seat 2.
Android 9 doesn't support multiple audio stacks (zones) or different priorities natively due to the following limitations:
- Android 9 does not provide APIs that enable applications to target a specific zone. Instead, applications must target the audio type (media, announcement, etc.), which is selected from a pre-defined set provided by Android. For example, Android does not currently support defining the audio type as media for target zone 2.
- Physical Streams (provided by the AudioFlinger/internal mixer) do not transport Context information (e.g. tagging within Logical Streams) after the mixing; preventing the Audio HAL from routing specific Logical Streams to different zones.
Scenario: Use multiple instances
This scenario uses multiple instances of Android automotive to effect multi-zone audio.
- Each zone has its own Android automotive instance that independently manages zone content. Hardware below the HAL combines and coordinates the output of multiple instances.
- Instances exist on distinct hardware (i.e. tablets in the rear seat) or share physical hardware via a hypervisor.
- Output is statically assigned to vehicle speakers using a single primary zone or dynamic assignments are made below the HAL.
- First-party party apps (installed in every instance) collaborate via a proprietary protocol to coordinate and route sounds to specific zones. Alternatively, use ChromeCast functionality to communicate across different instances and even devices.
Scenario: Target secondary zones
This scenario uses first-party applications to explicitly target secondary zones (which are ignored by Android).
- OEM defines additional output audio device ports in
- First-party applications that implicitly know the vehicle configuration
can enumerate the available output ports and explicitly target any one of them
Scenario: Use audio policy rules
This scenario uses audio policy rules to dynamically add route-specific UIDs to additional audio devices.
- The audio routing engine defines routing rules based on the UID of the requesting application.
- A system-level service or launcher adds rules to send the output of a specific application (UID) to a specific device associated with a secondary zone.
- These specific devices are defined in addition to those provided for routing of the predefined audio contexts.