3D in your ears
High-technology fans are focusing on virtual reality, but another, more discrete technology prepares its arrival: 3D sound.
2016 and 2017 will be the years of virtual realities. But one thing we often forget is that it is not limited to image.
LThe concept of “3D sound” can seem a bit obscure at first glance. Yet, it is simple enough: the idea is to reproduce in headphones the effect of a 5.1 or 7.1 Home cinema sound. Instead of the sound coming out of the headphones, the technology we are developing aims at bluffing your brain so that it perceives sounds as coming from behind or from the sides.
Two elements make it possible: a file format that tolerates multichannel (most movies are available in 5.1 or 7.1) ; the integration of a program which uses the phone’s and headphones’ movement sensors to apply to the different channels light time differences between the right ear and left ear sounds. These differences represent what the brain perceives when it analyses the ambient sounds and requires to know the person’s movements, in real time, with an accuracy of a tenth of a degree.
There is then a “sound illusion” and the 3D sound allows the user to turn his head to “move toward” the sound. Presented like this, the functionality seems to be a gadget, but the massive arrival or virtual reality launched an “immersion race”. The leaders of the “VR” market will be the ones who will manage to immerse at best the users in their virtual escapade. And sound is one of the most important senses to give the illusion of reality.
The arrival of 3D sound technologies will allow people who don’t have the space or budget necessary for acquiring a home cinema to enjoy a complete sound immersion with simple headphones. And there are multiple applications: besides virtual reality which will gain credibility with it, this technology will enable for instance to hear someone as if you were turning to them in group conversations through Skype or other video services. Platforms like Youtube 360 could also soon be compatible with 3D sound to allow the viewer to “move” both in sound and in image.
This technology we are developing is at a crossroad between computer high-technology and the hi-fi world. We must juggle with these two universes and create partnerships everywhere so that 3D sound becomes naturally linked to virtual reality or augmented reality. Once the market becomes aware of that, the number of compatible supports will boom along with the number of opportunities for the public to enjoy our product.
To find out moreIt is already possible to enjoy a 3D sound experience for music (a more natural listening), cinema (the immersion of a home cinema everywhere you go) and video games: 3D sound headphones carrying movement sensors and working with a multimedia player on iOS or Windows 8 (249€), and a movement sensor plug-in, to attach to your existing headphones, for the same uses and in pre-ordering on the website (99€, late June delivery). Both are available on 3DSoundLabs.
Co-fondateur et pdg 3D Sound Labs