Google adds support for spatial audio to the Cardboard SDK
According to the Google Developers Blog, spatial audio is one of the new capabilities in the Cardboard SDK. This feature will allow developers to describe the location of sounds and their environment, so that the audio will “fit in” with the VR scene and users can pinpoint exactly where sounds are coming from, further blending the virtual and real worlds.
Google’s Cardboard design is pretty much the cheapest way for anyone to get into the whole VR thing. You just buy one of the very cheap Cardboard options (or create your own, or get one for free), you add a phone, and that’s it – you’re now ready to experience VR.
To make things even better, the search giant is now adding support for spatial audio to the Cardboard SDK. This means developers can now create immersive audio experiences in their VR apps. What’s more, for end-users this will work with any pair of headphones, no special gear needed.
According to Google, “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).” Furthermore, the developers can specify the size and material of any virtual environment, which contribute to the quality of a sound. Depending on where you as an end-user seem to be in VR, things will sound different.
The good news is that spatial audio shouldn’t tax your phone’s CPU too much, and the SDK allows developers to control the fidelity of each sound – allocating more resources to critical things, and de-emphasizing others. Hopefully this feature will make it to apps very soon.
Why it is Important: Google Cardboard is the most exciting effort out there to bring virtual reality to the masses. It’s been embraced by schools for virtual field trips and the New York Times to create more engrossing stories. Cardboard viewers can be had for cheap, or if you’re the enterprising type you can make your own.