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Published: 04 October 2018

Listen up!

Researchers have showcased an immersive audio experience that could revolutionise home entertainment, replicating surround sound without the hassle of cables or expensive loudspeakers.

A display of speakers, computer and TV screens
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A multidisciplinary team from the Universities of Surrey, Salford, and Southampton, and BBC Research & Development have developed  the ‘S3A: Future Spatial Audio’ project that uses speakers in devices that people already have at home, such as mobile phones and laptops, to recreate the sense of immersion that you get in the cinema or at a live concert or sports event.

Users can test out the technology by listening to a specially created science-fiction —The Vostok-K Incident. This immersive audio drama has been created specifically to take advantage of extra connected devices. You can listen to the piece just like a normal audio drama, but the experience gets better as soon as you connect more devices, unlocking surround sound effects as well as extra hidden content.

Dr Philip Jackson from Surrey’s Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP), said: “Sound has the power to draw you inside a story, to envelop you and to move you. Without telling you to buy a load of new loudspeakers or how you should set out your living room, we've combined new audio technologies to make it easier for you to have more immersive experiences at home.”

The S3A team uses a technology called ‘object-based media’ to flexibly reproduce audio, regardless of what devices people connect and where they put them. This works by separating the sounds and having a set of instructions that describe how they can be reassembled. The researchers designed an intelligent system that adapts the audio playback based on the instructions, sending sounds to loudspeakers that are available in the room.

Professor Adrian Hilton, Principal Investigator of the S3A Project and Director of CVSSP, said: “This release is a big step forward to S3A’s goal of bringing exciting and immersive experiences to listeners at home without specialist audio devices or set-ups. We are looking forward to realising the opportunities of the work on the future of spatial audio.”

The Vostok-K Incident was presented as part of a talk at the British Science Festival Beyond Surround Sound last month.

Listen to the The Vostok-K Incident drama to get a taste of the future of home entertainment.