There is one company that is truly making waves when it comes to 3D sound; an unheard of research company in Germany called Fraunhofer IIS. The reason this company is being noticed by Korean giants such as Samsung and LG is because they have successfully created 3D surround sound audio tech and has partnered with them for Samsungs Gear VR and LG’s new smart phone, 360 VR.
Fraunhofer came up with internet audio and 3D sound for VR and they are setting their sights on new frontiers for new innovations in sound in the relatively new field of virtual reality
So why should the world take notice of this new technology?
Fraunhofer IIS has created audio codecs which have been used in over 8 billion devices which have been licensed by over 1000 companies; Spotify and YouTube are just but a few.
Even when it comes to compressed audio, VR completely changed the way the quality of entertainment forever. Fraunhofer changed the way we listened to media though MP3. Without it, gadgets like the iPod would never exist; neither would Netflix, Spotify or YouTube which rely on compressed audio to function.
VR hopes to do the same with mobile file codes HE-AAC and what they company views as the ‘next generation’ codec MPEG-H.
First, let’s see how 3D sound affected our lives.
When it comes to surround sound Dolby Atmos is a well known term. Dolby and DTS were pioneers in creating mix and master audio tracks based on sound objects. Traditionally, sound mixing was limited to recording and mixing audios into precise channels. But with the ability to move individual objects, like a helicopter allowed to move freely through sonic space, this effect proved to radically change the way we hear objects, sounds and musical beats.
In a Dolby Atmos movie theatre, you can experience this feature fully. Lasers and rockets fly from front to back of the theatre and rain drops seem to come from above with speakers mounted on the ceiling and so much more. This created more realistic theatre experience making the experience more powerful and memorable.
Use of VR in cinema
VR however might prove to be an even better medium for sound objects to roam. Realistic sound plays an even more important role in the cinema because sound impacts the way we process information. For example, sound reflections can tell us whether we are in a small room or whether we are in a huge open space. So in movies, when a car is driving down a road or when a character is running in a hallway, the sound needs to be realistic in space.
Sound also helps guide the plot and in a scene, a sound on the left directs the viewers eyes to turn in that direction and holds the users attention and creates suspense. If you hear a crashing sound behind you, chances are you will naturally turn to see what happening and the directors can use these cues to steer the movie along.
In addition to this, Fraunhofer’s audio tech incorporates head tracking cues which means even if you turn your head, the sound stays put.
The research lab
Fraunhofer has an advanced audio lab which they claim is one of the top most sophisticated labs in the world. They have developed 3D microphones to be able to capture 3D sound in a better way in a live environment. This enhances the 3D sound recording process from start to end.
Fraunhofer’s system starts with its 3D surround plug in which can work with literally any digital audio recording software. This makes it easy to move sound objects in a virtual 3D environment and uses minimal processing power.
VR in mobile devices
When it comes to mobile devices, a high number of smart phone users’ stream music and movies through their devices and they also want a good surround sound experience. Speakers on mobile speakers are too small so Fraunhofer came up with its own hardwa re for virtual surround over headphones with the creation of Fraunhofer Cingo; a library which allows you to have virtual surround using regular head phones.
This is also what Google incorporated the HE-AAC codec into Google Nexus devices, so did Samsung for Gear VR and LG’s 360 VR.
The goal for Fraunhofer is to allow audio professionals to easily render high quality 3D surround sound files in an open source environment which may allow for the most brilliant and best innovators in VR to create ingenious work, making the future of audio very promising.