Microsoft 3D audio tech makes virtual sounds sound real

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

Chuong Nguyen

Chuong's passion for gadgets began with the humble PDA. Since then, he has covered a range of consumer and enterprise devices, raning from smartphones to tablets, laptops to desktops and everything in between for publications like Pocketnow, Digital Trends, Wareable, Paste Magazine, and TechRadar in the past before joining the awesome team at Windows Central. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, when not working, he likes exploring the diverse and eclectic food scene, taking short jaunts to wine country, soaking in the sun along California's coast, consuming news, and finding new hiking trails. 

  • I just want to try this...
  • Have you tried the 'Virtual Barber Shop' app on the Windows Phone store.?
  • Can't tell if trolling or serious. .
  • It really is an awesome app ^.^
  • I'll bet one is Coming with a mic for Xbox One. Its a purchase anyways.
  • Someday we might actually be one of those soldiers in Battlefield 4 :P
  • Why not join the army then?
  • Actually, if he joins the Marines he has a better chance of fighting faster..
  • Not sure I see how this would be a benefit for something like the Oculus Rift since it already has sensors to determine which direction you are facing (otherwise the it's just a virtually large screen attached to your head) so the system powering the Rift can make the audio adjustments the same as the video.   This would be good for creating virtual 3D audio for Xbox One when you don't have surround sound (tv speakers only etc.) Also could be really cool if/when they can shrink it down and use the phone's frotn camera to track your face and adjust audio in headphones (or I guess if the phone had stereo speakers) to make 3D sound while playing on the go.
  • I like your idea of using the selfie camera, very intuitive thinking .....that, my Windows fans is Bloomberg's Taxonomy in action.
  • Oculus can still make use of the alogrithm and software that they are developing to make this work. More likely, they will have their own headset in the future.
  • According*
  • Accordint sounds cooler
  • lol
  • And then put it in a set of Bluetooth Jaybirds.
    Thank you. Goodnight
  • Too much news. I got a headache
  • But you know some other company will make it market first. As usual MS leaks their secrets for others to copy.
  • That's exactly what I thought
  • 3D headphones have been around for years, I first tried Razor Megladons (overpriced rubbish - the control box overheated).  But Currently on Sony GA-500's here, they look cool if a bit odd, but are easily the most comfortable headset I've ever used and the 5.1 mode is excellent. But only if the game supports Dolby surround, when it does the headphones work very well in delivering audio to the user that tricks me into thinking it is coming from one area.
  • It Has sense only with oculus rift. With regular screen/ tv u are always looking forward in direction of screen.... Otherwise it's impossible to watch movie or play any game. Even now some games know what sounds to play and how, by taking into account your viewing point in virtual doesn't matter if u turn head with 3d goggles or move mouse on screen.
  • If grenade would detonate before player on screen, but u would have head turned a bit right because u looked atm at your phone, according to description it will sound like grenade was on the right side of screen and ingame POV, breaking audiovisual consistency of virtual environment.
  • Another good point, -1 for techywarrior, I admit, though I deservedly praised the idea of the selfie cam integration, Szymon's common sense just torpedoed the selfie cam
  • Neat!
  • Sweet
  • Hope its going to be a boon , not only for music lovers but also for musicians
  • Purity Pro headphones are awesome. Add 3d sound? Wow!
  • My Senns with my Colorfly C3 already do this :)
  • >Not realizing that it already existed with Aureal3D or EAX/OpenAL for years.
    It was up to the developer to link the spatial audio and the 3D display together.
    At the same time. I'm surprised that I haven't seen anyone with a wrapper (in tech/vidya game news) for MS Flight Sim X and Oculus Rift.
  • amazing Microsoft!
  • Nice
  • Virtual barber shop app is a good app to try out for great 3d sound
  • Cool