Google's Open Source Spatial Audio Tool Joins its Virtual Reality Offering

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 27, 2016

The digital photography and digital audio arenas have been going through a renaissance for some time now, with 360-degree photo tools arriving that provide panoramic and immersive views of locations and SurroundSound-like audio experiences. On the photography and virtual reality front, Google recently announced that it open sourced VR View, a tool that lets  developers tembed 360-degree photo and video content into sites and native apps. The images can be viewed on Cardboard viewers or through a single-lens viewer.

Now, Google has announced that it has open sourced Omnitone, a software tlibrary hat developers can use to integrate spatial audio with websites. The software is available now on GitHub under an Apache license.

Google has posted two videos featuring the spatial audio dynamics that you can achieve with Omnitone. The videos depict musicians that you can listen in on from various spatial angles.

Google team members write in a post:

"Spatial audio is a key element for an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience. By bringing spatial audio to the web, the browser can be transformed into a complete VR media player with incredible reach and engagement. That’s why the Chrome WebAudio team has created and is releasing the Omnitone project, an open source spatial audio renderer with the cross-browser support.

Our challenge was to introduce the audio spatialization technique called ambisonics so the user can hear the full-sphere surround sound on the browser. In order to achieve this, we implemented the ambisonic decoding with binaural rendering using web technology. There are several paths for introducing a new feature into the web platform, but we chose to use only the Web Audio API. In doing so, we can reach a larger audience with this cross-browser technology, and we can also avoid the lengthy standardization process for introducing a new Web Audio component. This is possible because the Web Audio API provides all the necessary building blocks for this audio spatialization technique.

Throughout the project, we worked closely with the Google VR team for their VR audio expertise. Not only was their knowledge on the spatial audio a tremendous help for the project, but the collaboration also ensured identical audio spatialization across all of Google’s VR applications - both on the web and Android (e.g. Google VR SDK, YouTube Android app). The Spatial Media Specification and HRTF sets are great examples of the Google VR team’s efforts, and Omnitone is built on top of this specification and HRTF sets."

 The real promise in using these audio tools may lie in combining them with VR View to embed 360-degree photo and video content experiences online.

Google adds: "With emerging web-based VR projects like WebVR, Omnitone’s audio spatialization can play a critical role in a more immersive VR experience on the web. Web-based VR applications will also benefit from high-quality streaming spatial audio, as the Chrome Media team has recently added FOA compression to the open source audio codec Opus. More exciting things like VR view integration, higher-order ambisonics and mobile web support will also be coming soon to Omnitone."

 Find out more about Omnitone here