Spatial audio is rapidly becoming a commonplace investment for XR innovators. As companies and consumers continue to explore the world of extended reality, the demand for enhanced immersion is growing. Vendors are learning the importance of building a multi-sensory experience for their audience, through not just 360-degree images, but also positional sound.
Via spatial audio, companies can create an immersive interactive environment where it’s possible to detect where sound is coming from in a 3-dimensional space. Spatial audio can enhance collaboration, improve training opportunities, and pave the way for new brand/consumer interactions.
The companies investing in spatial audio today are using the technology to enhance the quality of their virtual reality landscapes, and develop new experiences in the metaverse. Here are some of the most innovative vendors in the spatial audio landscape.
One of the major market leaders in the XR accessories environment, Rebuff Reality focuses on developing enhanced solutions for existing VR hardware and tools. The company produces a range of power systems, tracking modules, and cross-platform compatible audio solutions.
Among the most exciting solutions developed by Rebuff Reality are the “VR Ears”, a cross-platform compatible audio solution which brings spatial audio immersion to existing headsets. The off-ear speakers allow for a more comfortable experience, while the real-life sound direction boosts the immersion capabilities of the ecosystem.
For companies looking to implement spatial audio into their existing investments, Rebuff reality could offer an excellent alternative to investing in new technology.
Among the most famous XR innovators on the market today, HTC VIVE offers a range of solutions for those interested in the benefits of spatial audio. A number of the company’s VR headsets are already equipped with spatial audio technology, such as the VIVE Flow VR.
The VIVE team have also recently introduced a new Spatial Audio SDK, to help new developers take advantage of multi-directional sound experiences. The SDK includes everything from Higher Order Ambisonics to Hi-Res audio settings and geometric occlusion.
The VIVE SDK is hardware-independent and user-friendly, although there are specialist sound experiences available for those building solutions for VIVE headsets.
Focused primarily on the business world and corporate uses for Extended Reality, Magic Leap produces a range of powerful headsets with built-in speakers, sensors, and spatial audio. The Magic Leap 2 AR headset, for instance, has powerful spatial experiences included, alongside state-of-the-art ambient light sensors and Wider FoV cameras.
Like HTC VIVE, Magic Leap also supports a vast developer community, with access to various tools capable of integrating with Unity technology for spatial sound. There’s a “Soundfield Audio” solution for Unity users which allows for the creation of powerful AR experiences within the Magic Leap headset, equipped with spatial sound technology.
Microsoft has emerged as perhaps the most significant market leader in the Mixed Reality headset and technology environment. The HoloLens headsets for MR users are equipped with spatial sound solutions, alongside a wide range of other advanced features for the creation of holographic images.
However, Microsoft offers access to spatial sound experiences in a range of other modes as well. For instance, the Microsoft Mesh environment, built for developers creating their own Mixed Reality landscapes, offers built-in technology for spatial sound.
Microsoft also offers spatial sound technology for various headphones and computer devices, highlighting the growing demand for the solution in the wider digital space.
Recently committing to an increased investment in spatial sound technology, Apple is one of the major brands drawing attention to this form of audio in the XR space. The Apple spatial audio technology has been produced alongside the Dolby team, and is available across a range of devices, including iPhones and iPads.
At this time, Apple is still working on its own AR glasses and advanced XR headsets. However, many specialists believe the company will be implementing technology like spatial sound into its creations. There are also developer resources available for those using Apple technology to build AR experiences for mobile systems.
One of the top brands in the XR market for both mixed reality and virtual reality headsets, Varjo is always on the cutting edge of the industry with its technology. The Varjo hardware available today, such as the XR-3 and VR-3, promises high-resolution extended reality experiences through some of the most immersive visuals available.
On top of sensational visual performance, Varjo also invests heavily in accompanying tools to make the XR landscape more immersive, including hand and eye-tracking. The leading headsets available from Varjo also include access to spatial audio as standard.
Varjo has also begun to introduce a range of new tools for business leaders using extended reality, such as the Varjo Reality cloud, and Varjo workspace.
As the leaders behind the quest for the “Metaverse”, Meta is constantly updating its XR portfolio and solutions with the latest technology. The company already offers one of the most accessible forms of VR headset on the market with the Oculus Quest.
In June 2022, Meta released a range of new open-source spatial audio tools designed to help developers bring immersive sound experiences into virtual environments. The technology uses audio and visual cues to separate voices from background noise, and assists users in paying attention to specific cues in a digital space. Future creations in the Oculus environment are likely to include further solutions for spatial audio too.
Unity stands out as one of the top environments for developers in the XR space. The software landscape provides access to a range of programming solutions, SDKs, and APIs built to help developers create their own custom landscapes. As part of the portfolio of coding solutions available from Unity, users can tap into various spatial sound technologies.
The Audio Spatializer SDK from Unity aims to transform the way applications transmit audio in a specific space. The solution comes with plenty of documentation to guide developers through the process of implementing directional cues into sound systems. What’s more, the technology is cross-platform accessible, so it can be combined with a wide selection of some of the most popular hardware solutions in the market.