Through a VR headset you see as realistic as possible an image of a virtual space, whereas it is the sound that confirms that you are actually there. Good sound in VR headsets are not self-evident. The VR headset including TU/e developments, aims to produce ‘pure’ acoustics that cannot be differentiated from ‘true’ sound. At the Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2019, a demonstration of this equipment is available, hinting to what opportunities it has. Through “echolocation” this instrument can assist the blind in gaining a better perception of their environment as self-made click sounds bounce back at them. You can also experience the acoustics of a still-to-be-built office.
For a realistic reproduction of sound through a VR headset, several important aspects have to be addressed. In short, the source of sound, the propagation path, and the reproduction system need to be well taken care of. The main contribution of the Building Acoustics team is to take care of a realistic propagation path, being the acoustics of a room. This propagation path includes the direct sound from the source to the listener, as well as all room reflections that occur when the sound waves interact with the room. These signals need to be obtained binaurally, meaning at both ears. In the DDW demo, we have recorded these signals in the room displayed in VR, for many head rotations. For every look angle in VR, the corresponding (interpolated) signal is used and processed (convolved) with the voice as picked up by the microphone, offered to you in near real-time via headphones.
Our current research focusses on obtaining the room acoustic signals from detailed calculations instead of measurements, as this will allow to render the sound in VR for newly designed (not yet existing) spaces. At one hand we work with these prediction methods, see this publication. At the other hand, we investigate the accuracy of these prediction methods needed to reproduce the sound in rooms realistically, with the aim to get realistic and efficient prediction methods, such that real-time VR experiences can be aimed for.
As a part of our scientific research described above, we will evaluate acoustics of spaces in VR. For these tests, we are open for volunteers that are interested to participate and help us to bring further science and technology. If you are interested, please fill your contact information below.