Facebook is continuing to devote resources to fine-tuning how 3D audio impacts viewer perceptions in virtual reality.
Today, the social media giant and Oculus parent company announced they have purchased immersive audio company Two Big Ears and will be making their technology free as a part of their new Facebook 360 Spatial Workshop. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The Edinburgh-based company, which has been around since 2013, specializes in spatial 3D audio in cinematic and gaming experiences.
Two Big Ears discussed their grand vision in a blog post detailing the acquisition.
At Two Big Ears, we’ve been hard at work creating technology and tools that have defined how immersive audio is crafted and experienced in VR and AR both now and in the future. We’re proud to see the impact our work has had on so many great projects…
Our mission is to make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms and continue to help creators make the best experiences for billions of people across the world.
The company’s technology focuses largely on how sound plays in 3D spaces and how it interacts with surfaces that surround the viewer. If you grab a pair of headphones you can experience a demo of the company’s disarmingly cool technology in the video below.
Further progress in building hyper-realistic 3D audio is a major get for Facebook video and the Oculus platform. Both the Gear VR and Rift support the immersive audio technology and the fact that Facebook is opening up Two Big Ears’ 3Dception technology for free to developers is a nice move to keep content creators happy.
The company previously had two immersive audio products based on solutions for both cinematic VR and gaming. While the cinematic VR product has morphed into the free “Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation,” Two Big Ears will be working with the Oculus team on a way to integrate the gaming software.
One of the questions on a lot of developers’ minds is likely whether this tool is only going to be compatible with the Oculus Rift and Gear VR. Two Big Ears realized this was a cause for concern and addressed it directly, saying they would “continue to be platform and device agnostic.”
Nevertheless, this move might be a bit inconvenient for developers who had already hopped on board the Pro subscription to 3Dception. Two Big Ears detailed that support for the Unity, Wwise and FMOD plug-ins would hold true for existing projects for another 12 months, but that the plug-ins would no longer be available for download.
Immersive 3D audio is hugely important to high-end virtual reality like that available on the Rift, but it’s really even more crucial to the rather rudimentary VR experiences like those that are available on Facebook video right now. While certain technical challenges with optics are going to require major hardware upgrades for smartphone VR, audio remains a really effective bang-for-your-buck area to draw a viewer into an experience.
With the Two Big Ears purchase, Facebook has made it easier for developers to make their experiences better and has strengthened the company’s pull in making the social media site the default hub for immersive VR video content.