Global Experts Agree: VR Audio Matters

Experts from around the globe discuss VR audio and why it matters for every piece of VR and AR technology. Find out why 360 sound is a must for immersive experiences.

Posted 06/28/2017 on The future of sound

Many of us have heard the George Lucas quote “sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie” but does this thinking apply to virtual reality? In a series of exclusive interviews, we asked VR audio experts from around the world what they thought and the answer is a resounding yes.

“Even with closed eyes, we feel the omnipresence of the real; just with sound, we are able to reconstitute the space around us,” says Laetitia Wilfert-Portal of Acoustiguide. Award-winning Director Michael Morgenstern puts it this way: “Audio has always been what completes the experience of a film.

But Kwang Myung Jeon, a VR researcher at GIST, believes sound matters more for VR than in traditional film and TV experiences. He says, “We can still enjoy a conventional movie or TV show without audio through vision, because most people don’t expect immersive experiences from them. For VR, however, people expect perfect immersion.” He goes on to say that truly immersive experiences can only be achieved “when the technology can deceive both the visual and the auditory senses simultaneously.

Highlighting this importance of sound for virtual reality, Andrew Collins, head of Strategic Partnerships Universal Music Groups Firstcom says “In VR you don’t want the music to dominate the scene, but the right music placed strategically in VR can enhance the user experience.”

Brandon Hall of Tweddle agrees: “Audio is the aspect of VR that really brings you in,” he says.

ARKAMYS CEO Philippe Tour describes the need for VR audio this way: “Some people doubt the importance of sound in VR. Would you ask to turn off the music in a movie theater? What if the roar of a lion sounded like the squeak of a mouse? I strongly believe it is necessary to improve virtual reality audio for more immersive VR experiences, because sound matters.

Additionally, VR audio matters not just because sound is important, but also because it uniquely provides us something our other senses don’t. “Hearing is the most pervasive sense. It is enveloping, it is engaging, and it is emotional. If you want to transport people to a virtual world, audio of course plays a big role,” says Dr. Brian Katz, a Research Director with the CNRS.

“Your ears can hear what your eyes can’t see. Sound is totally essential to VR storytelling.says Louis Cacciuttolo, CEO of the popular VRrOOm site. Michael Morgenstern agrees, saying VR sound “bridges the gap between video and reality.”

There’s a scientific component as well. “Audio information is perceived by our brains even faster than visual information. I also believe that having really cutting edge sound can help to make the visual deficiencies [in VR] less apparent,” says Taylor Shechet, an VR implementation engineer.

Dr. Brian Katz, explains it this way: “Spatial audio, or more precisely spatial hearing, is different from vision in a number of key ways. First, spatial hearing is 360° full-sphere from the outset; you don’t need to turn your head to hear behind you. Second, while you can close your eyes or drop a haptic device, you cannot close your ears (assuming you do not put your fingers in your ears); you are always listening.”

Finally, it isn’t just any sound that matters for VR audio. Louis Cacciuttolo says “A visual experience delivered in 360 must be accompanied by matching 360 sound. Otherwise it’s just pointless, or even very disturbing.”

It can’t be denied that VR audio matters for great virtual reality experience, but Andy Collins might sum it up best when he says “360 audio takes VR to the next level.”

If you want to find out how to take your VR to the next level, contact ARKAMYS today.

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