On Audio in VR

This is a paragraph from my website I wroote a long time ago. Maybe it better sits here now:

With the revolutionary development of modern Virtual Reality headsets players have the ability to transcend the screen and step into the game world with a never seen fidelity. The ability to invoke the feeling of “presence” is only achievable with the help of high quality spatialized audio. The auditory system is communicating with the human brain on a much more direct and unfiltered way.

It is a shockingly different approach to creating experiences. The fact that the listener is physically in the game space (with head and hand tracking in room scale VR) makes being creative in this space extremely rewarding. More on that topic over here.

The problems with spatializing audio and creating a sound field that adheres to the expectations we have in the real word are a fun and exciting challenge.

It’s really interesting to read this after working in VR for a bit over a year. Back when I wrote this I knew audio was important to giving presence, but I had no idea how complex the systems would have to become to really sell the experience.

To see what’s currently hot in VR audio land, check out this talk about the latest audio tech Oculus has been developing (October 2017):

Pretty neat stuff!

What I find so fascinating is that the technology to render audio for this type of game is still in constant flux. Ambisonics has be resurrected from an audio obscurity to a bonafide industry tool – yet the standardization is a mess. Every company uses different encoding- & decoding formats, there are various channel layouts and a whole range of proprietary formats has entered the market as well.

In the Unity VR projects I am currently working on we are mostly using Steam Audio (rebranded Phonon) – one of the best sounding, freely available spatializers around. Unity is adding antive Ambisonics support. Unreal is adding native VR audio features.

I hope this was interesting or – whatever 😛