As we hurtle towards a future of decentralized virtual worlds and experiences, the need for sound design and engineering will become increasingly important. Just as graphical user interfaces (GUIs) revolutionized the way we interact with computers, authentic sound design will be critical to providing a truly immersive experience in VR / AR. In this post, we’ll take a look at the evolution of sound design and engineering, and explore how it will play a key role in the evolution of the metaverse.
1. How sound design will change with the metaverse
In the past, sound designers had to create sound effects that would work within the confines of certain physical spaces. But now, with so many different platforms being built for the metaverse, sound designers have access to a whole new set of tools and technologies that allow them to create soundscapes that are more immersive and realistic than ever before. And with the ability to create real-time interactions between sound and other elements in the Metaverse, sound designers are able to create soundscapes that are truly unique and interactive. As the Metaverse continues to evolve, so too will the soundscapes that we inhabit.
Sound design and audio engineering are critical components of creating immersive experiences, whether it be in virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality. As we move more into VR/AR-based experiences, challenges arise in how to properly convey sounds within these environments. Do you want the sound to be realistic or exaggerated? Should it be coming from all around you, or just in front of you?
One important consideration is the placement of sound sources. In a traditional room, sound waves travel directly from the speakers to the listener’s ears. But in VR, the sound waves need to bounce off of virtual objects in order to reach the listener’s ears. This means that engineers need to be very careful about where they place sound sources in the virtual world.
Another consideration is the use of ambient sound. In most rooms, ambient sound is simply background noise that isn’t really noticed by listeners. But in VR, ambient sound can help to create a sense of presence and can be used to cue listeners to important events happening in the virtual world, this means that you have to design soundscapes that work in 360 degrees, rather than just designing for speakers in front of the viewer. This means taking into account not only how sound will reflect off of objects in the environment but also how it will move as the viewer turns their head.
In addition, sound designers have to be careful not to create sound cues that are too jarring or disorienting, as this can cause people to feel nauseous in VR. It is often noted that with almost every media form, users will overlook poor video (or visuals), but if the audio is poor or unrealistic they will drop out very fast. This becomes even more relevant with blockchain enabled metaverse platforms, where you increasingly immersive worlds and environments being built that often have different sound design requirements.
3. How audio engineers and producers can create better sounding experiences for users in VR
Sound engineers and producers are used to thinking about sound in terms of how it will be heard over speakers in a room. One way this has been traditionally been enhanced is with spatial audio. Spatial audio is a type of audio that uses multiple speakers to create the illusion of sound coming from different directions. This can be used to create a more immersive listening experience, or to make it easier to localize sounds in a space. Spatial audio is also often used in movies and video games, as well as in virtual reality and augmented reality applications.
While traditional stereo audio only has two channels, spatial audio can have dozens or even hundreds of channels. This allows for a much greater level of control over the direction and intensity of the sound. However, it also requires specialized equipment and software to create and reproduce. Spatial audio is a broad term which includes the possibility of environmental sound and multi- loudspeaker systems.
But when it comes to VR, the distinction is engineers need to think about how sound will be experienced by users who are wearing headphones and may be moving around in a virtual space. By integrating 3D audio sound designers can create an all-encompassing sound experience that can transport listeners to another world. 3d audio usually suggests the perception of point sources in 3-D spaces, whether the audio reproduction is accomplished with loudspeakers or headphones.
Facebook’s Meta team is currently exploring how to create 3D audio for the metaverse. This includes everything from sound design and production to mixing and spatialization. The goal is to create an immersive audio experience that feels realistic and natural. To do this, the team is experimenting with a variety of techniques, including binaural recording, wave field synthesis, and head-related transfer functions. so far, the results have been very promising, and the team is continuing to learn more about how to create realistic 3D audio.
Haptic feedback can be used in tandem with 3d audio and involves the use of touch to provide information to a user. By applying pressure or vibration to the skin, haptic feedback can trick the brain into perceiving sound as coming from a specific direction. This can be used to augment the sense of immersion in VR environments. Haptic feedback can also be used to create realistic textures and shapes. By applying different textures and patterns of vibration, it is possible to create the illusion of touching objects that are not really there. This can enhance the sense of presence in VR and make it more realistic. Haptic feedback is an important part of audio VR.
As sound design and audio engineering continue to evolve, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities for how they’ll be used in virtual reality and metaverse platforms. With the ability to accurately represent the three-dimensional soundscapes, new tools and plugins will allow creators to deliver a truly immersive experience. Spatial audio, 3d audio, haptic feedback, wave-field synthesis and binaural recording are key elements for the future of audio production. The need for authentic sound will finally give audio producers, engineers and musicians the opportunity to (finally) ride a similar wave of explosive growth that the gaming industry has experienced.