This article will talk about the importance of spatial audio, and how this recent innovation be significant in the future. This focuses on the importance and challenges around sound experience, with a focus on spatial sound perception in virtual reality (VR).


Spatial audio, what is it?

Spatial audio is a technique that sound is processed to make it seem come from the real location in space. It has a surround-sound features, the left and right, from above, front, and behind the listener as well. A technology where an array of loudspeakers around the listener is used to deliver sound from 360° (3D). Example is playing a piano behind the listener, a plane flying above, or a barking dog might sound behind the listener and to the left.

Since the spatial audio is frequently corrected by the actual head position, VR headsets and spatially tracked headphones make this effect more realistic than with normal speakers.


How spatial audio works?

There are two techniques:

1. The HRTF or “Head Related Transfer Function” technique, used to move sounds to left and right, front and behind, and above the listener. A time delay between ears to produce the effect, a sound coming from the right of the listener gets to the right ear a little before it gets to the left ear.

2. A bit complicated the different frequencies of a sound are changed differently for every direction the sound is coming from. The listener will hear the frequencies shift higher and lower for different angles.

Spatial audio uses the time and intensity variations between signals to each ear at a specific distance.




The Challenges

There are only some positions where the sound location is tricky. These are the two positions, in front or behind the listener as the signals reach each ear at the same time. Listeners simply need to move their heads, so that the direction changes until an understandable difference is made to overcome this. When the head is fixed, though, listeners hearing sounds through headphones appear as they come from behind them.

It is also very challenging to estimate the distance of a source. Such as the height of plane flying above, and this causes large errors in real life. Fixed location improves when a listener is allowed to move towards the source, which is vital for audio-only AR environments.


Experience the spatial audio

Surround sound can be found in cinemas and home theaters. We can also consider the Ambisonic method.

Many apps benefit from spatial audio, not just voice/mobile apps, games, live streaming events, and virtual reality. 

Find out some amazing spatial audio production in these platforms:

This immersive audio technology gives the listener the impression that the sound comes from all around them. 


When Should You Use Spatial Audio?

This is ideal when hear music, soundtracks from movies, TV shows, and music channels.  As previously mentioned, when listening to audiobooks. This would also be effective for videoconferencing when people talk at the same time, to understand them.

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