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Dolby dives into virtual reality with Atmos surround sound for VR

February 27, 2015 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Bryan Bishop / The Verge

As the momentum behind virtual reality slowly continues to build we're seeing traditional movie companies dip their toes into the medium. Today Dolby is announcing a partnership with Jaunt that will bring its Atmos surround sound technology to the world of VR -- and it may turn out that virtual reality is even a better fit for the technology than the movie theaters it was originally designed for.

Jaunt produces short virtual reality movies for the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard, using its own custom camera rig to capture visuals across a near-360-degree field of view. The user then watches the action play out, able to look around anywhere they choose. Their titles, like the Paul McCartney "Live and Let Die" live performance short or the monster movie Kaiju Fury, aren't interactive in the traditional sense but they are immersive, and Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen says sound is vital.

"We've realized that audio plays a huge component in terms of delivering a compelling and truly transportive VR experience," Christensen told me during a recent briefing. "We actually think audio is maybe 50 percent of the whole experience." To that end, the company has previously relied on its own solutions, using a special tetrahedral microphone array to capture audio when shooting and delivering a 360-degree soundscape that matches the viewer's head movements. But whether it's sound effects or other elements, VR movies need more than what's simply captured on set, and the ability to place those different elements accurately is integral to selling the overall illusion. That's where Christensen says there are real advantages with Atmos.

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