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VR’s About to get Even Scarier as Oculus Introduces new Audio Tools for Developers

What makes a truly immersive virtual reality (VR) experience? Is it the visuals, the interactive elements or is it the audio? Really it’s a careful balance between all of them, but as anyone who’s played a good horror videogame knows, proper use of sound can be far more nerve wracking than some jump scares. Helping to aid players audible delights, Oculus has revealed two new tools for developers, Near-Field HRTF and Volumetric Sound Sources.

Oculus Rift’s original audio filters were designed to replicate and place sounds that were at least a meter away from a users position. However, as gameplay has advanced – namely due to Oculus Touch – sounds can now be much closer, which is where Near-Field HRTF comes into play. With the tool developers can now model audio much closer to a player with far more accuracy than before – like the mobile phone in Don’t Knock Twice for example – further aiding immersion.

Oculus Audio Engineers
Oculus Audio Design Manager Tom Smurdon and Software Engineering Manager Pete Stirling

Volumetric Sound Sources deals with the challenge of sounds that don’t have a single starting point like the ocean. So the tool enables studios to give sound a radius, modelling objects of virtually any size. As such the larger the radius the bigger the sounds source will be.

“The work we’re doing in this area makes what you perceive in VR feel like the real world without having to actually model the real world. This should make it easier and faster than ever for developers to bring realistic VR experiences to life,” software engineering manager Pete Stirling explained on the Oculus Blog. “We want people to step inside VR and experience new worlds. If it doesn’t sound real, the whole thing feels fake. Our goal is to blend visuals and audio into a cohesive, realistic experience—without you ever noticing we were there.”

As development continues on improving VR audio, VRFocus will keep you updated.