Immersive Audio – Defining XR
Inspired by Microsoft Research’s Soundscape project which utilizes geolocated spatial audio to provide low-vision users the ability to navigate the world unassisted, we sought to explore how immersive audio is more than just a supplement to 360 visual media.
Where to Start
First we focused on understanding the production workflow for producing immersive audio, and how to develop one that is budget conscious and efficient. We also analyzed how immersive audio can be distributed through accessible platforms that can reach as many people as possible.
Pros and Cons
Approaching the current immersive audio production software market in hopes of building an efficient and budget friendly production workflow revealed a lot of gaps that each component created in the pipeline. These gaps resulted in a need for more plugins and software bundles than we anticipated. This is primarily due to each component’s focus on specific spatial audio use cases. For example, Oculus and Facebook’s Spatial Audio Workstation focuses on producing spatial audio for 360 video while Dolby’s AVID Pro Tools suite is proprietary to higher level software and budgets (Pro Tools Ultimate and $300 price tag for the suite). Understanding the consumer-facing software market along with free research focused spatial audio plugins allowed us to draft a preliminary workflow that is free, and achieves a level of spatial audio that presents the capabilities to produce an immersive experience with just spatial audio.
Just the Beginning
The results of this experiment showed us that high-level spatial audio production is just starting to become as vital as visual production in XR activations, but the technology is available to create accessible audio experiences that can not just immerse users, but also aid and improve their quality of life (as seen in Soundscape). Moving forward, we feel it’s vital to continually expand the accessibility for spatial audio production tools through more affordable suites and further development of consumer-facing audio resources. This is because of immersive audio’s capability to transport users to any world with just a pair of headphones