The Transformative Power of Fully Immersive Spatial Audio Design
In order to make an AR/VR environment “believable” and fully immersive, the audio design component has to be sufficiently intuitive enough to be indistinguishable from reality.
If the virtual word’s spatial sound design isn’t convincing, nearly every participant will disconnect in various ways, often unconsciously, and won’t be invested in the experience nor narrative of the product; creating a complete loss in retention of the experience. In other words, this loss of auditory intimacy creates a loss of engagement.
Our acute perception of sound distance and permanence is so evolutionarily fine-tuned at this point that if a virtual environment we interact with doesn’t have nuanced multi-varied sound effects (in terms of pitch variation or velocity of, say, an object hitting the floor, or how hard a door closes), we automatically dismiss the concept of full immersion while still trying to compensate for the disparity in latency.
In capture and display of real-world virtual reality, spatial audio can be quite difficult to sync and adjust for orientation and leveling in post-production. However, the real-world environment is often littered with hard reference points and audio cues, making it easy to target, and focus on, each element of the environment. Even if things are a millisecond off, our brain can correct the disparity, and when synced with a reference waveform, even more so.
With VR gaming, complete and total spatial sound immersion becomes a different animal and takes on an even more vital role. In order for the interactive environment to be believable, you have to process the sound in a very subtle and multi-faceted way, since the experience becomes all about the users personal and direct connection to the environment. When done meticulously, the experience becomes heightened at every step and can fully transport the participant.