Augmented Audio

In this rather text heavy sprawling post I’ll be briefly covering the present and future possibilities of augmented reality audio (ARA for the purposes of speed). For the uninitiated the augmented audio website provides a comprehensive overview:

“Augmented Audio is defined as live audio being modified and/or enhanced by computer-generated sensory input. By introduction of another layer of information or media on top of an input feed, it is possible to produce highly enriched audio feedback. The concept belongs in the Augmented Reality (AR) family, but has started to distinguish itself as an important independent application area due to recent media attention. New innovative implementations have shown that the concept is applicable in many different contexts, including tourism, location-oriented communication and information sharing, gaming and entertainment and even as a distinctive new interaction technique.”

Also this website provided a link the audio gaming company RjDj (Reality Jockey Ltd). This company was an early developer in the area pushing beyond the confines of the research based approach to fully fledged consumer applications. Their apps won critical acclaim, and are still developing new concepts in audio gaming and general entertainment. Their new situ app is particularly useful for playlist junkies such as myself, whereby it learns your activity cycle’s and related music choices to automatically recommends music. Like a automated, situational, related artist search. Seeing as I’ve spent hours doing this on Spotify its very welcome. Semantic music analysis straight in your lugs, and its free!

To pick up on a article in designing sound (fantastic sound design blog), in which they covered Audio within VR environments. The article mentioned the 3Dception toolset for game design. Surround sound has existed within the gaming community for a long time. But, where 3Dception makes its mark is the ease by which a developer can integrate binaural audio into their workflow with tools for the Unity and Wwise platforms. So, where does fit with ARA? Glad you asked. They are currently developing toolsets for NativeSDK, Pure data (and libpd…hence android and iOS) and Max/MSP. This then allows for construction of augmented environments using sensor data from the respective platform, ta da, augmented reality! This coupled with their interest in integrating procedural audio could make some amazing possibilities for dynamic reactive audio environments.

(Additionally from the article on designing sound I was pleased to find this chap in the comments. Frank the terrorist is a homemade dummy head used for binaural recording, and it works pretty well, the recent thunder storm clip is very detailed)

So now we have some ARA options, what else are we going to need? In steps the intelligent headset with its uninspiring promotional videos and prohibitively high cost except for affluent early adopters. Not that prohibitively high cost has stopped many things in audio geekery. This being said dedicated hardware for ARA is a good idea, as positioning of sensors is not optimal when they all stored within a handset. By adapting headphones with accurate positional indicators the HRTF algorithms can happily match head position to aural environment. Also indluded in the headset is GPS, compass, gyro and accelerometer. One key element missing, in my humble opinion, that is accurate stereo microphones so that augmented audio can be layered on top of existing real world audio. Though quoted as a ARA solution I think it fundamentally misses the mark. In truth this is just a well optimised binaural solution.

Also Dolby recently launched their Atmos mobile venture inside the new Amazon kindle. This lab note is a great technical description and well worth a look. But whether this technology can be adapted for ARA remains to be seen. Dolby haven’t yet created any tools beyond that of professional services. Though this maintains brand integrity it does stifle the development of the technology in the public sphere. This has the benefit of separating professional products, such as Hollywood films, from other content. But innovation in a medium does not always come from the establishment. So maybe it would be worth Dolby developing accessible production tools to allow smaller ventures to endorse and enhance the technology in a organic sense. A Dolby mobile API maybe?


 To finish, if you are still reading, I would like to point you in the direction of a fantastic tech blog praxtime. In the article highlighted a series of possible wearable augmented reality solutions are presented. These predictions and concepts are based on the trends and possibilities in wearable tech. 

Thanks for reading.


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