Public Release: 

Creating a personalized, immersive audio environment

Researchers use head related transfer functions to personalize audio in mixed and virtual reality

Acoustical Society of America

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2017 -- Move your head left, now right. The way you hear and interpret the sounds around you changes as you move. That's how sound in the real world works. Now imagine if it worked that way while you were listening to a recording of a concert or playing a video game in virtual reality.

During Acoustics '17 Boston, the third joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the European Acoustics Association being held June 25-29, in Boston, Massachusetts, Ivan J. Tashev and Hannes Gamper, with Microsoft's Audio and Acoustics Research Group, will explain how they are using head related transfer functions (HRTF) to create an immersive sound environment.

HRTFs are the directivity patterns of the human ears and since every human is unique, capturing a person's HRTFs is the equivalent of fingerprinting. Everyone's ears are unique, so the imprint of one person's anatomy on a sound is completely different from that of another.

"Sound interacts not just with the area but the listener themselves," Gamper said. Sound doesn't just go straight into a listener's ear. It interacts with the shape of the listener's head, shoulders and ears. "All of the physical interactions with the sound create this unique acoustic fingerprint that the brain is trained to understand or decode," Gamper said. "This fingerprint is captured in the HRTF."

Using a database of HRTF measurements from 350 people, the largest such database of HRTF, Tashev, a senior project architect, and Gamper, a researcher, are working to create a more personalized, immersive audio environment. In mixed reality, where a digital image is imprinted in your actual environment, this technology will attach sound to that image. If there's a dragon in the corner of the room, you'll hear it as well as see it.

"In order for us to be able to create this illusion of the spatial sound that's somewhere in space we have to trick the brain," Gamper said.

There are three main components to Tashev and Gamper's work: spatial audio, head tracking and personalization of spatial hearing. Spatial audio is the concept of filtering audio as it comes from a certain dimension. With head tracking, sound changes as the listener moves his head. Spatial hearing, the ability to localize the direction of sound, is unique for every person. The third is personalization of spatial hearing: the ability to localize the direction of sound.

"From those three components, our spatial audio system and spatial hearing filters are improving the perception of the user to be able to say, 'Yes, that sound came from there!'" Tashev explained.

"The whole goal of personalization is to make [the experience] more convincing, make it more accurate, and also eventually improve the quality of it," Tashev said.

For this personalization to work, the researchers need a lot of data. The 350 people in their HRTF database all had high resolution 3-D scans, which included detail around the ears, head and torso. For less data, but still a high amount of personalization, the researchers could ask for specific user metrics, such as head height, depth and width, and then search their database of 350 people for a close match. Eventually, they said, it might be possible to take a single image from a depth camera or an XBox Kinect and use models to map a template from a 3-D scan of that image.

"We care about impacting the life of people in a positive way," Tashev said.

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Session 2aAAa4."Head-related transfer function personalization for the needs of spatial audio in mixed and virtual reality" by Ivan J. Tashey is at 10:40-11:0 a.m. EDT, Monday, June 26, 2017 in Room 208 of the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center.

Images available: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/spatial-audio/

MORE MEETING INFORMATION

Acoustics '17 Boston, the third joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the European Acoustics Association.

The meeting is being held June 25-29, 2017 at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

USEFUL LINKS

Main meeting website: http://acousticalsociety.org/content/acoustics-17-boston

Technical program: http://acousticalsociety.org/content/program-acoustics-17-boston

Meeting/Hotel site: http://acousticalsociety.org/content/acoustics-17-boston#reservation

Press Room: http://acoustics.org

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A press briefing featuring will be webcast live from the conference on Monday, June 26, 2017 in the afternoon and Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in the morning in room 111 of the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Register at https://www1.webcastcanada.ca/webcast/registration/asa617.php to watch the live webcast. The schedule will be posted here as soon as it is available.

ABOUT THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at http://www.acousticalsociety.org.

ABOUT THE EUROPEAN ACOUSTICS ASSOCIATION

The European Acoustics Association (EAA) is a non-profit entity established in 1992 that includes in its membership societies predominantly in European countries interested in to promote development and progress of acoustics in its different aspects, its technologies and applications. EAA gathers 33 societies of acoustics and serves public citizens and more than 9000 individual members all over Europe with yearly events as well as scientific conferences and publications such as Acta Acustica united with Acustica and Acoustics in Practice. The European Acoustics Association (EAA) is an Affiliate Member of the International Commission for Acoustics (ICA) and of Initiative of Science in Europe ISE. Visit our website at https://euracoustics.org/.

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