Delivering Spatial Audio for Use with Virtual Reality

Introducing my research project for emerging technologies in audio. Although spatial and 3D audio has been around for a long time already it has only recently been introduced to the mainstream. With advancements in virtual reality (VR), especially its availability to the mass market, virtual audio needs to maintain the pace to enhance the virtual experience and make it a truly immersive one.

What are the positives and negatives when delivering a range of spatial audio systems for use with VR? There are several ways spatialised audio can be received by the listener. There are three fundamental categories in which this sound can be delivered: through a speaker array; a pair of stereo headphones; a bone-conduction headset. These categories can be split into sub-groups. The array in which the speakers are set up can be altered, 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound and third and fourth order ambisonic speaker arrays could be explored. Within the headphone and bone-conduction headset categories the different software used to replicate the 3D environment may yield different results. Two of the 3D audio applications I am interested in are Waves NX and Dolby Headphone. Another variable to be considered is the technique for recording spatial sound. The two main methods for capturing 3D audio are binaural and ambisonics. Binaural recording tries to replicate the human listening experience by using either a dummy of a head with microphones in the ears or using earbuds with microphones on actual human ears. The sound is then recorded from the exact position it would be picked up from human ears, crucially considering the effect the auricle has on the perception of location and direction of sound. Ambisonics uses an array of multiple microphones to map the audio space in a 360󠇏° sphere.

By exploring these various techniques and audio delivery systems I should gain a comprehensive understanding of the application of spatial audio to create the best experience in immersive virtual reality.

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