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EETE MAY 2015

audio virtual reality 3D Sound Labs cracks user-centric surround sound By Julien Happich French startup 3D Sound Labs is now taking pre-orders for its Neoh headphones which it claims produce a truly immersive, 3D spatial sound. Funded through Kickstarter, the headphones feature advanced 9-axis motion-sensing (comprising gyroscopes, accelerometers, and a magnetometer) to track even the smallest of micro-movements of the user’s head. Movement data feeds the company’s binaural algorithms via Bluetooth to the user’s sound source (this could be a smart phone, a tablet, a smart TV or even a game console) to process any surround sound formats so that the perceived sound field remains static for the wearer. This means that when the user looks right or left, he or she can hear and localize the appropriate sounds respective to the original sources, just like in a conventional cinema or home theatre sound system. Precise motion sensing is critical to bring out the psychoacoustic effects that one perceives when unconsciously moving his/her head. Even a few degrees of orientation shift from micro-movements will give your brain the necessary hints to accurately locate sound sources. Going far beyond stereo, the audio processing app running with the Neoh headphones virtualizes all the different audio sources to create an immersive audio sphere, offering an even more realistic sound experience than today’s best home theatres, claims the company. In a fun video largely inspired from the Matrix movie, with a pun on Neoh, the company compares mono, stereo, Dolby 5.1 and Neoh’s immersive sound experiences. The company has several patents pending on this surround-sound channel discretization and correction. “For now, our software is designed to deliver 25 channels, but then we have tricks to process sound up to the 5th harmonic, and in the future we could deliver more channels”, told us 3D Sound Labs Cofounder and VP of product & operations, Dimitri Singer. “Although all the audio processing is done in software, we have a technology that scales much more easily than competition, so the processing power we require is not linearly tied to the number of channels we implement and all can be easily done on today’s portable devices’ CPUs”, Singer said, discar-ding the need for an ASIC. Tracking the user’s head relative to the sound’s source is performed through position averaging, assuming the wearer is generally looking towards a unique screen. This prevents drift from inertial motion units after initial calibration. For video games or virtual reality environments, such an immersive audio experience naturally improves the user’s perception of his/her environment. Adding special reverberation effects is next on the company’s roadmap, so users could choose an environmental or architectural context at the push of a button. “Using sound tracing algorithms and precise environment models, you could tune the sound rendering to match a particular experience, say for example that you would want to listen to an album from the Beatles exactly as it was played in the Abbey-Road studios”, noted Singer. “We are mostly aiming at consumers, so for a simple user interface, they would have a selection of reverberation effects to choose from. But we are also developing a professional plug-in so audio engineers can create their own content”. Even though most of its IP is in software, 3D Sound Labs is not keen to licence its audio know-how. “We want to be a consumer company and offer a finished product”, said Singer, “also by building the headphone ourselves, we make sure to control the entire sound chain to tune the final audio properly”. “We could licence our IP and we have B2B discussions with virtual reality headset manufacturers, but this would have to be a very good licensing deal for us” he added, “something to be decided case by case”. 4 Electronic Engineering Times Europe May 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE MAY 2015
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