Virtual reality apps for Google Cardboard already offer some pretty trippy visuals that can make you feel like you're somewhere else, and now they're poised to get more lifelike sound.
Google on Wednesday updated its Cardboard software development kits (SDKs) for Unity and Android with so-called "spatial audio" support, so developers can create more realistic audio experiences in their VR apps. Google Cardboard Product Manager Nathan Martz said many apps already create simple versions of spatial audio by playing sounds from the left and right in separate speakers. Today's SDK updates take this a step further, allowing apps to actually "produce sound the same way humans actually hear it."
"The SDK combines the physiology of a listener's head with the positions of virtual sound sources to determine what users hear," Martz explained in a blog post.
Sounds that come from the right, for instance, will reach a user's left ear with a bit of a delay and with fewer "high-frequency elements," just like they would in real life. Developers can also now specify the size and material of their virtual environment — two factors that affect the quality of sound.
"So you can make a conversation in a tight spaceship sound very different than one in a large, underground (and still virtual) cave," he added. "We're excited to see (and hear) the new experiences you'll create!"
In other Cardboard sound news, Google recently launched a new Camera app for its VR viewer that combines photography with audio. It lets you create VR photographs that include a bit of the ambient sound from wherever you're snapping the image, increasing the immersion for a person who then views your work.