What do we mean by immersive audio?
Picture the scene: you’re relaxing in a chair on a lazy Sunday. You reach out to grab your smartphone from the coffee table to flick through your film downloads. With one touch of a button, your living room is enveloped in a whirlwind of sound: bold brass booming from the right, with the gentle sound of plucking strings to the left, accompanied by a crisp picture and bold colour. You hear a bird flying overhead, a bee quietly buzzing, slow draws of breath: a perfect blend of visual engagement and sound. How is this achieved? Immersive audio, otherwise known as 3D sound or immersive sound, enhances video game play, and film and TV engagement for all ages. Immersive audio combines 3 key elements: enhanced height surround sound, object audio (sound is pushed into a 3D space) and a higher speaker count (a larger listening area). Popular systems, such as the Dolby Atmos, combine objects and channels to create multi-dimensional sound with great richness and depth. When these elements come together, the system can decide where the sound should appear and how it should move across the room as a scene plays out on the screen.
What was once a linear ‘here’s what we have’ environment has switched to component-driven ‘content bits for the best experience’ experiences. Recording systems can now reproduce sound the way our ears hear it. This has been utilised to develop everyday gadgets, improved 3D audio fields for headphones, for example – expect big players like Tidal, Apple and Google to look to 3D audio features as market differentiators in 2017. This is all part of a big push into augmented reality entertainment that will change our real-world environments at the touch of a button.