Google Cardboard gets spatial audio with SDK update

Google's Cardboard headset is probably the most accessible route into VR right now. The company is making that experience more immersive today with an SDK update that lets Cardboard developers add spatial audio features to their apps.

This update gives developers some tricks to make sound more positional. For example, sound from a virtual source to the user's right will be played with a slight delay and less high-frequency content in the left ear to emulate the dampening qualities of our skulls.

The new SDK also lets developers specify the size of the space where their VR experiences are playing out, so a virtual concert hall or movie theater will sound appropriately different from a bedroom or office.

Google also says this SDK is optimized for the multi-core CPUs of today's mobile devices, so positional audio won't compete with an app's main thread for CPU resources. The SDK also lets developers control the quality of sounds, so each audio source can be reproduced with only as much fidelity (and CPU resources) as it needs.

Developers who want to add more spatial awareness to the sounds in their Cardboard apps will get a full set of cross-platform Unity components and a native Java API for Android today.

Comments closed
    • w76
    • 4 years ago

    I saw, at the behest of a friend, some VR porn on his Google Cardboard-compatible plastic thing, forget the brand. It was actually disconcerting… I can see how it might cause issues; some people won’t like it, others might spend far too much of their life in a false reality. I think there’s several sci-fi shows that described how this is gonna go, most recent one I can think of being Caprica but it goes way back.

    • CthulhuBill
    • 4 years ago

    It’s an interesting thing to take into account, but the quantifiable differences in the shape of the outer ear and the ear canal do more to color your ability to localize sound then the source. Many peoples ears are actually a bit different from each other as well, and your brain has calibrated your hearing to always take advantage of these slight differences it comes to expect in the signal. Since these are being aimed into the ears and are not hitting the folds of the ear from the normal directions that the brain is used to hearing noises (As each ear imposes its own phase shift onto the incoming audio signals, which your brain uses to help localize the audio source between your two ears, along with timing differences and more subtle things like guessing how much high end attenuation has occurred due to oxygen absorption and other subtle things)

    As we start trying to emulate more and more of these things digitally to improve fake sourcing of sound points we are going to start hitting a point where natural physical variability will make it impossible to become more accurate in faking it. There is a limit, at least until you start modeling ear and ear canal shape for each person as well.

      • Neutronbeam
      • 4 years ago

      TLDR…

      • w76
      • 4 years ago

      And here I thought that eyes were impressive evolutionary feats.

    • TruthSerum
    • 4 years ago

    I still can’t believe this is a real thing.

      • One Sick Puppy
      • 4 years ago

      I had to check if it was april fools.

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    Google Cardboard* just drifted all the time for me.

    Using the gyros to zero and track head movement is a total failure 🙁

    [i<]* - I actually have one of those Oculus-like plastic headsets that you can slide your phone into, but that's pretty much Google Cardboard from a mechanics point of view.[/i<]

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 4 years ago

    So did they just implement OpenAL or what?

    • DPete27
    • 4 years ago

    Is it just me, or does Google Cardboard just look like a silly mockery of VR headsets.

      • morphine
      • 4 years ago

      Friends ordered some sets, it’s surprisingly good. Then you take into account that it’s a frickin’ piece of cardboard, and your mind is blown.

        • anotherengineer
        • 4 years ago

        My children would get it wet and it would fall apart ;( lol

      • ludi
      • 4 years ago

      It’s a low-cost way to position a $600 smartphone at the right viewing distance. What else does it need to look like to get the job done?

        • DPete27
        • 4 years ago

        [url=https://techreport.com/news/27478/samsung-gear-vr-headset-is-selling-for-200<]Oh I dunno...[/url<]

          • One Sick Puppy
          • 4 years ago

          Caveman never needed comfort or wearability.

      • Brainsan
      • 4 years ago

      The entire point of Google Cardboard is VR on a budget, or for free. They gave away the first Cardboards at a dev conference. There are PDF’s out there so you can print your own. You still have to source the lenses though.

      If you want a little more polish, there’s the Viewmaster version, and Amazon is selling it for less than I paid for my Unofficial Cardboard (that’s a brand name) version.

      [url<]http://www.amazon.com/View-Master-Virtual-Reality-Starter-Pack/dp/B011EG5HJ2/[/url<] One of my nieces has the Viewmaster, and it's well designed and solidly built, they put some effort into kid-proofing it.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    That’s nothing. The built-in HUD is going to get an ALL-CAPS capability once the SSK update drops.

      • Neutronbeam
      • 4 years ago

      AND AN AUTOMATIC INCREASE IN VOLUME AMIRIGHT?

      [LOL, imitating SSK just never gets old!]

      • Kharnellius
      • 4 years ago

      So they SSK’d the SDK?!

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