Improving the Headphone Experience for Immersive Content and VR
We’ve been incredibly excited these days. Why? Because all kinds of content just keeps getting more immersive, both acoustically and visually. Virtual reality, games, movies — you name it. There’s now more data, more visual information, more audio channels than ever, and it’s this new type of content that is spawning a next generation of hardware to process it all. Headphones are no exception.
But the gap between the information packed in the data, and what current headphones can deliver is too large. We can all agree that sound plays a HUGE role in the immersiveness of our content, but the reality is that headphones today are missing crucial elements needed to process that content and play it back in the most realistic way possible.
To put it simply, your headphones don’t make an experience, they make an experience feel real. Luckily for us, there are a few things that can improve your headphones and in turn your overall listening experience.
Here are a few ways headphones can unlock 3D audio:
1. High-fidelity, Multi-Driver Array for Accurate 3D Audio Rendering:
When we refer to 3D audio, we mean sounds being rendered in all directions, depths, and locations, just like in real life. Contrary to surround sound, which is limited to a certain number of channels, 3D audio is infinite. While we can’t have an infinite number of speakers in headphones, we can still recreate how that would sound to your ear through a series of near field drivers. For a sound source at any location in space, the soundfield created at the listener’s location has a particular signature. It’s possible to recreate this soundfield using near-field drivers located within the headphones. This brings the audio realism from your content straight to your you by allowing you to locate sounds in space from anywhere, not just a specific number of channels.
And of course the sound quality top notch, because recreating the sound field won’t do you any good if the actual sound playback is sub-par — whether you’re hearing a gun battle right in front of you, or a dog barking faintly off in the distance.
2. Built-in Headtracking:
For a sound environment to be immersive, it has to respond to your physical location. In the case of VR or PC gaming, this means we can turn our head and the position of that sound should changes accordingly. Hear a sound in the room and you turn your head to localize the sound and now that sound is facing you. Hear a car driving by your left? Or a dog barking in the distance to your right? That’s real-life 3D audio at work, allowing your ears to localize sounds within a space. That all seems pretty simple, but it’s not at all common with current headphone experiences.
3. Instant HRTF Calibration:
Everyone has a unique way of hearing the world around them. It’s important to highlight the word unique here, because how you hear the world is truly different than anyone else. It’s all based on the size of your head, and your unique ear shape (which can vary by as much as 2x another ear). The unique way that sound reaches our ears is called our Head Related Transfer Function, or HRTF, and in order for you to believe the sound is real, that sound needs to be encoded with your unique HRTF. This allows you to hears sounds from anywhere in space and for them to “sound right” to you.
The ideal 3D audio headphone would measure key features of your HRTF anatomy and adjust the audio frequencies accordingly through various proprietary sensors and playback algorithms. This would bring an entirely new level audio quality to your ears, because it’s been customized to you and only you.
The reality is that without knowing custom HRTF data (or no data at all) the sounds you hear in space may seem like they are coming in completely different places than they actually are, or just might sound bad altogether.
The future of headphones
Here at OSSIC, we’ve been working for over a year to develop a truly immersive 3D audio headphone with one goal in mind: the 10X audio experience for your content. That means including all of the features listed above. If you’re excited about the future of audio as much as we are, feel free to sign up for our newsletter below and get exclusive updates as we prepare for a Kickstarter launch this February.
(Image Courtesy: Sergey Galyonkin)
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