"Use Headphones" – The Power of Sound for Immersive Experiences

Screenshot from Google's Inside Abbey Road Experience

Screenshot from Google's Inside Abbey Road Experience

If you’re in the tech world, or just a lover of virtual reality, you’ve probably come across a slew of incredibly cool experiences online to watch. And if you did, you probably couldn’t help but notice the little nudge at the beginning of these experiences to put on your headphones. Here are a few we came across recently:

“For the best experience, use your headphones” - Google: Inside Abbey Road

“Better With Headphones.” -  Unboring.net 3D Experience

“Use headphones for 360-degree binaural audio” - VRSE VR App Experience

Could it be that these little, seemingly unnoticed statements have a much bigger statement behind them? The answer is yes – and they are making it pretty clear what that statement is.

What they are saying is that sound is so crucial to the quality of the experience they’ve created, that they have gone out of their way to remind you of that before you even start. Why? Because sound really is THAT important to the experience. It’s important because all that hard work to make an immersive, transformative experience can possibly fall flat without the emotional power of sound. 

So they make darn sure you hear it.

The power of sound to transform

Sound is everywhere. It evokes emotion. It tells stories. It helps us define the world we know, and worlds that we create.

Sound can make us cry, laugh, and everything in between.

From the whooshing of cars next to you on a crowded street, to the soft whisper of someone you love, to the stomping of 20,000 fans around you at a concert — we can all agree that the world, and how we hear it, is part of being human. 

And now that we have the ability to create immersive visual environments, sound has a much bigger role to play in not only making great virtual experiences better, but also helping them to truly feel real.

Content creators understand this. But while they can more or less control how you will view the content, they can’t always control how you hear it. That’s where these little “wear headphones” notifications come in.

Why headphones?

Simply because anything else just isn’t immersive enough. 

From a purely technical standpoint, headphones help to block out external sounds and typically have a better depth and larger range of frequencies. If the goal is to immerse you in the content you’re viewing, headphones then make the best choice to ensure the best experience overall.

But in reality, headphones still have a long way to go before you can truly feel immersed with of whatever you're watching. That’s because while the visual world has been forever changed with the advent of virtual reality headsets such as Oculus, the way we can playback the audio of these visuals hasn’t quite caught up.

Sure we can encode sound in stereo, surround sound, to even binaural audio...but even then that audio can’t be rendered to you in a way that truly mimics the way you hear things in the real world. Headphones today just aren’t technically able to. So while you may be 100% immersed visually, current headphones can only bring you 10-20% there aurally. 

Only until the oncoming of 3D and spacial audio has sound really started to enter a realm that can keep up with what you see.3D audio and the future.

3D Audio and the future

3D audio headphones will allow content creators to put the best sound in their games, movies, music, or virtual reality experiences and know that the person on the other end is hearing the audio as it was meant to be heard, and sometimes, as if you were actually there. 

That means bringing people more into the battlefield, the concert hall, or sports field. Sounds far away will sound far away. Sounds coming from behind might even make you turn around and look. Sounds coming from a room down the hall will actually sound like you need to peek your head out to see what’s going on.

At Sonic VR, we’re working on breaking those barriers between recorded sound and reality, so that more immersive content like can be made, and heard.

Because for someone trying to tell a story, evoke an emotion, or simply wanting the viewer to be completely engaged in whatever they are playing – 3D audio is the future. 

So next time you open that cool 3D, virtual reality, or online experience, just remember that the sound IS pretty important to what you are watching.

And don’t say they didn’t tell you so.

Share now with your friends!

If you enjoyed this article here are a few more recommended posts:

5 Cool Videos about Sound

What is 3D Sound

Binaural Audio and Virtual Reality