Embracing virtual reality as the future of humans enjoying entertainment, Google’s Chrome WebAudio team has announced the Omnitone project – an open source spatial audio renderer that will transform your browser into a full fledged VR media player.
The standard multi-channel surround sound might be immersing enough to watch on a flat screen; when it comes to 360 degree videos, surround sound needs to be delivered in a way to correspond the head movement and perspective of the viewer. In other words, it has more to do with the location of the sound than the sound itself.
In a blogpost, Google wrote, “Our challenge was to introduce the audio spatialisation technique called ambisonics so the user can hear the full-sphere surround sound on the browser. In order to achieve this, we implemented the ambisonic decoding with binaural rendering using web technology.”
Ambiosonics is a surround sound technique that makes for a full-sphere of sound in addition to the horizontal plane – covering sources of sound above and below the listener.
Spatial audio, or 3D audio effect help to virtually place sound sources in three-dimensional space, above, below or behind the listener through manipulated sound effects through your existing stereo speakers. To better understand, imagine a sound source in your room and understand the amount of noise each ear will pick when you stand sideways or backwards to the source. Google’s Omnitone project will be able to mimic that differential sound reaching your ears when you move your perspective in a 360 view – creating the illusion of 3D sound.
“There are several paths for introducing a new feature into the web platform, but we chose to use only the Web Audio API. In doing so, we can reach a larger audience with this cross-browser technology, and we can also avoid the lengthy standardization process for introducing a new Web Audio component,” notes the blog.
Google is developing Omnitone to incorporate it in its WebVR projects – Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift. You can experience the 3D sound VR demo on Google’s blog post.
In its I/O conference, Google said it will develop a range of VR headsets under its new DayDream VR which will work with a range of phone brands. The company is also working working on a feature that will allow Chrome users to view any part of the web in virtual reality using Cardboard or Daydream-ready viewers. Google envisions DayDream VR has a larger platform which will work across platforms.