Developers working with Google Cardboard apps can now create realistic sounds the way humans experience them like when a fire truck zooms by or when an airplane is overhead. Google has announced that the Cardboard SDKs for Unity and Android support spatial audio so developers can create immersive audio experiences in their virtual reality (VR) apps. Users will not need any additional equipment, just their smartphone, a regular pair of headphones and a Google Cardboard viewer, explains Nathan Martz, Product Manager, Google Cardboard in a blog.
Many apps create simple versions of spatial audio — by playing sounds from the left and right speakers. But this SDK update, says Martz, combines the physiology of a listener’s head with the positions of virtual sound sources to determine what users hear. For instance, 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. Martz also explains how the SDK will let developers specify the size and material of the virtual environment — both of which contribute greatly to the quality of a given sound. This will ensure that a conversation taking place on-board a virtual spaceship will be different from that taking place in a virtual cave.
Martz says that the updates will not hamper performance as such because the SDK is optimized for mobile CPUs and will compute audio in real-time on a separate thread, outside the primary CPU where most of the processing takes place. Also, developers can choose to allocate more processing power to the critical sounds, while de-emphasizing others.
Talking about ease of use, Martz says, “It’s really easy to get started with the SDK’s new audio features. Unity developers will find a comprehensive set of components for creating soundscapes on Android, iOS, Windows and OS X. And native Android developers will now have a simple Java API for simulating virtual sounds and environments.”
Google clearly has its work cut out for building on its VR capabilities in 2016. The company recently took a major step towards fulfilling its VR world domination dreams by announcing a separate division that will solely focus on virtual reality led by Clay Bavor who is the VP, Product Management for Google’s apps including Gmail, Drive and Docs. He has been overseeing the Cardboard project too.