Microsoft's research into 3D audio could become a big boon to virtual and augmented reality applications like the Oculus Rift and Valve's 3D glasses. Essentially, the technology turns simple headphones into ones that can mirror where the sound is supposed to be coming from to create an even more immersive environment in applications like gaming.
Accordint to Tom Simonite of Technology Review, even if you move around across the room, the sound travels with you and maintain their position relative to your head and ears. This way, if the sound is to your back, if you turn your head, the sound may appear now as if it is coming from your side. Sensors in the headphone as well as a camera can be used to track a person's head and position so that the system can pump out sound from the appropriate direction to the ears.
The technology itself isn't new. Head related transfer function has been around for some time and basically maps out where the sound is coming from and how the sound waves reach a person's ear with an array of microphones that are fitted to a person's ears. Dolby and THX have also been experimenting with delivering surround sound to movie patrons for some time.
How Microsoft delivers this technology is different and may be more cost effective. By using the 3D sensor inside a Kinect, Microsoft is able to map out a person's body and use models to filter sounds to the ears. This way, no expensive microphone or individualized mapping is required.
"Essentially we can predict how you will hear from the way you look," Microsoft researcher Ivan Tashev says. "We work out the physical process of sound going around your head and reaching your ears."
Whether this technology will reach Microsoft's Xbox in the future or wearable gaming devices like the Oculus Rift is still unclear, but as it stands it could offer a better augmented reality for gamers.
Source: Technology Review