University of Surrey presents ‘revolutionary’ approach to 3D audio

Computer vision and sound experts at the University of Surrey have demonstrated ‘Media Device Orchestration’ – a new home audio concept which enables users to experience immersive audio by using all available devices in a typical living room.

The development of the Media Device Orchestration (MDO) concept – which is being presented at the Audio Mostly conference in London today – has been developed at Surrey in collaboration with the Universities of Salford and Southampton along with BBC Research & Development.

With MDO, researchers have demonstrated that a 3D or ‘spatial audio’ experience can be achieved by employing everyday home devices such as a laptop, smartphone or wireless mini-speaker. The technology works by isolating different ‘objects’ within audio content (such as a particular voice), and connecting them to separate speakers available around the room, and the University of Surrey believes it could enable consumers to enjoy films, games, programmes and music in a far more immersive, multi-layered and exciting way.

The MDO research is part of the £5.4m five-year S3A project, funded by EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), which is aimed at delivering a step-change in the quality of audio consumed by the general public.

The development of immersive spatial audio systems has become a major focus for the audio research community and home audio industry in recent years with the advent of advanced home video technology such as 3D TV, resulting in a need for audio technology to ‘catch up’ in order to match the visual experience. Simultaneously, the growth of VR for video games and other applications is creating demand for a sense of fully immersive sound.

MDO produces a listening experience that’s different to normal surround sound but can be equally (if not even more) immersive.

Dr Jon Francombe

The object-based audio technology has enabled the S3A researchers to access each separate part of an audio scene, intelligently routing them to improve the listener experience. MDO is now being further developed in order to automate the process of ‘labelling’ sounds and connecting them with available speakers.

“We’re trying to make immersive listening experiences available to anyone by intelligently re-purposing content for whatever devices they already have available,” said Dr Jon Francombe, research fellow in spatial audio in Surrey’s Institute of Sound Recording. “The feedback we’ve had on our demonstrations to date has been great: MDO produces a listening experience that’s different to normal surround sound but can be equally (if not even more) immersive.”

The research paper, ‘Media Device Orchestration for Immersive Spatial Audio Reproduction’, can be accessed here.