Binaural audio (or 3D audio) has been around for a while. The basic idea is that two microphones are used to record an audio source. They are placed ear-distance apart (that is, the distance between two ears on your average head) and the audio they record gives the user a sensation of feeling present in the recording space. Rather than hearing or just listening to sounds, you might feel as though your are authentically experiencing them. Watch the video above to get an idea of what this is like.
3D audio offers a more expansive experience than its visual counterpart. “Unlike with the visuals, 3D audio is not limited to the field of view of the display and can be rendered to give a ‘complete 360-degree’ experience,” says Marks. “One of the biggest challenges for VR design is that the user can look in any direction, and may not even be looking when something momentous occurs. But using a 3D audio cue, it is possible to steer the user’s attention to look in the direction of the sound, similar to techniques that are used in live theater.”
The demo videos are cool and all, but the most exciting use for this will be videogames. The latest VR headsets are really good at immersing yourself into a world visually, but binaural audio is almost more impressive. The sensation of experiencing binaurally recorded conversation is incredible, but add this audio technique to a VR horror game and you’re guaranteed some nightmares.