oculus rift
January 14, 2015

Are you ready for 3D sound?

Brian Galloway for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Last week at CES, Oculus VR unveiled another important component of immersive virtual reality.

Many improvements to the Oculus Rift headset came in the field of visual fidelity. Previous prototypes increased the device’s screen resolution and refresh rate, or gave Rift more accurate head tracking. While they didn’t have a new device to show off at CES 2015, they still improved their product through sound in the third dimension.

Oculus licensed the Realspace 3D Audio engine from the VisiSonics Corporation back in October of 2014. The company has been hard at work implementing the technology in order to cement people in the virtual world.

“Audio is an essential ingredient for immersive virtual reality, and the technology that the VisiSonics team has developed is a great start towards developing a fully-featured VR audio solution,” said Oculus CEO, Brandon Iribe.

Oculus announced their acquisition of the technology at their Oculus Connect conference in 2014. CES 2015 marked the first public showing of the technology, though.

VisiSonics’ technology allows for positional audio through a physics-based audio experience. The software attempts to emulate the way sound waves move through the world so that the brain can process the distance and position of the noise. The audio engine uses Head-Related Transfer Functions (HRTF) in order to create "3D audio". HRTFs simulate how sound behaves when reaching your head after traveling through space. The brain fills in the rest of the spacial information and allows the listener to track the origin point of the sound. Users can now accurately pinpoint whether a sound is coming from above, below, or behind them in virtual reality.

Fans were hopeful for a consumer device release date at CES, but none was given. Hopefully we'll see (and hear) something in the next few months.

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