Google has released a Daydream VR app called Audio Factory, a polished and even entertaining demonstrating their Spatial Audio Engine for VR. Described as “VR’s second sense”, spatial audio is a key aspect of maintaining a high level of immersion, and all major VR platform providers offer their own solutions as part of their SDKs, including Google.
‘Direction’ in VR—as in, how to effectively direct the user’s attention when they are allowed to look wherever they please—is still a major design challenge for many VR content creators who are making the leap to this new medium. Although sight is clearly the leading attention-getter, how can you draw the user’s attention to what’s outside of their field of view? With their new Daydream app, Audio Factory, Google has effectively demonstrated the answer: spatial audio; that which sounds as if it’s originating from a distinct source within the VR environment.
Released alongside Google’s I/O Developer event last week, the Audio Factory app is a compelling showcase of the significance of spatial audio in VR, presenting a variety of interactive environments that highlight “evocative sound design”. Ostensibly the app is designed to demonstrate how useful and important spatial audio design is to developers and game designers, but it’s such a polished experience that it’s worth a go by anyone who owns a Daydream headset (just be sure to use headphones and turn up the audio!).
Google first introduced spatial audio to the Cardboard SDK in January 2016, and then presented their Spatial Audio Engine for VR at last year’s I/O, and they’ve recently announced Daydream 2.0, which adds several further audio improvements, including real-time early reflection rendering, pre-computed room acoustics, and spatial ambient baking.
Using Head-Related Transfer Functions, which determine the way in which audio enters your ears (affected by the position, size and shape of the head, along with many other detailed variables), the SDK can simulate audio coming from a particular point in 3D space, which enables immersive audio that can elevate a VR experience to the next level. Further information about the Google VR SDK’s audio rendering engine can be found within Google VR’s Spatial Audio guides.
The free app is available on the Google Play store.