Microsoft Has Developed 3D Audio to Augment Virtual Reality

Video games are about to get very realistic, and it’s not just because of virtual reality headsets. Microsoft researchers have developed the technology to make sounds seem as if they are coming from a specific point in space. The 3D audio technology is made possible by the software that builds a 3D model of a player’s head and shoulders and calculates a personal filter to trick the player into perceiving sound as coming from a specific location.

microsoft21Microsoft’s 3D audio relies not only on information about a person’s ear, but also the anatomy of his/her head. Through a process known as head related transfer function (HRTF), physical features, such as the shape and position of a person’s ears, alter sounds before it reaches a person’s ear canals. The new audio system takes that into account.

“Essentially we can predict how you will hear from the way you look,” Ivan Tashev, a Microsoft researcher, said. “We work out the physical process of sound going around your head and reaching your ears.”

Virtual reality headsets may be able to provide all of  information necessary for 3D audio because they have motion sensors to help track the position of the headphones as player moves their head. In the future, this new technology may also be able to be integrated with smartphone games or Google Glass wearables, making those games more immersive.

MIT Technology Review reports, “Tashev says he is now working to improve the capture system and make it smooth and speedy enough to be something a person with a Kinect camera might be able to do at home.”