Good news for Cardboard app developers and the rest of us as well. Today on their officialdevelopers blog, Google announced that they’re bringing spatial audio capabilities to the Cardboard SDK. This looks to make virtual reality even more immersive on the company’s playful little VR heardset.
Spatial audio is basically the ability for apps to replicate the way we hear sounds in everyday life. Stereo is essentially a crude attempt at spatial audio which takes into consideration the simple actuality that when we hear something primarily in our left ear, we assume the thing making the sound is over to our left.
However, there is far more information in sound than just left and right. Our ears are fine-tuned detectors that relay tons of subtle data to the brain for interpretation. Bringing spatial audio to the table will let Cardboard devs mimic some of these more nuanced elements. As Nathan Martz, product manager with Google Cardboard, describes it:
The SDK combines the physiology of a listener’s head with the positions of virtual sound sources to determine what users hear. For example: sounds that come from the right will reach a user’s left ear with a slight delay, and with fewer high frequency elements (which are normally dampened by the skull)… The SDK lets you specify the size and material of your virtual environment, both of which contribute to the quality of a given sound. So you can make a conversation in a tight spaceship sound very different than one in a large, underground (and still virtual) cave.
Martz says that this SDK is optimized for mobile CPUs and is designed to make as little impact on processing as possible. If you want to see (or rather, hear) spatial audio in action, Google has created a sample app for developer reference. For more detail, head over to theCardboard developers site for the full documentation.