With a greater demand for hyper-realistic immersive experiences, there has been a heightened increase in interest in spatial audio. After all, it is nearly impossible to recreate real environments into digital formats without satisfying one of the primary senses—the sense of hearing. The sounds we hear are crucial to the multisensory environment needed for compelling immersive worlds.
Let’s take a quick peek at spatial audio, its accelerating adoption, and how it enhances virtual reality experiences.
What Is Spatial Audio?
Basically, spatial audio is a suite of audio technologies that deliver multidimensional and immersive sound. Compared to stereo and surround sound, which are limited to the lateral plane, it adds a vertical plane. This creates a three-dimensional sound field that envelops the listener. The result is an auditory experience that mimics the way we hear sound in real life.
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When listening to music, spatial sound makes you feel as if you were listening to a live performance. In movies, it produces ambient cues that draw you deeper into a scene. It creates sounds with precise realism, elevating your listening experience to a whole new level.
How Spatial Audio Enhances Immersive Experiences
Touted to be a keystone for the metaverse, spatial audio is a core element for immersive experiences in VR, AR, and XR. Just as multidimensional images immerse us into a virtual environment, spatial sound effects also immerse us into a memorable sound experience that heightens our other senses.
A fully immersive experience requires a highly precise mix of audio cues. The visual elements we see in the virtual environment must match the detailed spatial audio mix to make the experience realistic.
Placed in specific locations both on the lateral and vertical planes are high-fidelity speakers to create a multidimensional sound. The optimized placements enable sound cues to come from any angle around the user. This creates an intuitive relationship between the digital environment and the physical space the user is in.
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In highly immersive environments, such as in virtual reality applications, the use of spatial sound effects significantly impacts user experience. The experience looks more real, sounds more real, and feels more real.
Accelerating Adoption of Spatial Sound Across Industries
Beyond immersive experiences, we see an accelerated adoption of spatial sound. It is fast becoming an industry standard for platforms and brands.
Popular streaming platforms Netflix, Amazon, and Apple already have spatial and immersive categories among their services. Mercedes-Benz has immersive playback systems on some of its models. Even popular artists are releasing albums in immersive formats. Dolby Atmos has home theater systems that enable consumers to enjoy spatial sound in their own homes.
Spatial sound is best experienced using smart speakers, sound bars, overhead speakers, and other such equipment. However, you can still enjoy it on regular headphones. For instance, Sony 360 Reality Audio is compatible with most headphones and earbuds, making it ideal for music streaming with spatial sound on the go. Apple Spatial Audio, which works with AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, utilizes built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers to make the sounds you hear change as you move your head.
The increasing accessibility and affordability of spatial sound solutions are further accelerating its adoption across industries and in the consumer market. In the field of virtual reality and the metaverse, we’re bound to see spatial sound becoming the norm.
Spatial Audio: A Key Element for Truly Immersive VR Experiences
True immersion in digital environments isn’t only about what we see. It is a multi-sensory experience that also involves what we hear and feel. Thus, spatial audio becomes a key element for truly immersive VR and metaverse experiences.