Creating a relentless virtual reality experience takes more than just visuals — audio is crucial, too. That’s partly why video gaming brand Razer acquired THX, an audiovisual certifying company founded by George Lucas in 1983 that’s expanding into the growing VR market.
Jason Fiber, head of business products at THX, said the company is working to address the “giant hole” in 360-degree audio — the lack of personalized head-related transfer function (HRTF) technology. HRTF tech can synthesize binaural audio to trick you into thinking a sound is coming from somewhere it’s not while you’re immersed in VR.
Essentially, it makes you visualize sounds outside of your head while you’re wearing headphones. But it varies from person to person because our head and ear shapes differ. So THX is developing an HRTF audio system where you can measure and personalize your settings from your mobile device, Fiber said.
“A mechanism is needed for individuals to measure their own HRTF, but this is typically costly and cumbersome,” Fiber said in a statement emailed to VRScout, “so we are working on a system that would allow anyone who wants to have as close to a personal HRTF system as possible achieve this using their mobile device.”
This basically means THX wants to add higher quality 3D audio experiences to VR ecosystems that run on mobile, like the Samsung Gear or Google Daydream. THX’s recent partnership with OSSIC X — 3D headphones personalized to the ear anatomy of their wearer — shows they’re clearly interested in customized 3D audio.
Fiber said they also recognize a lot of people will use headsets to watch films and TV, and they want to expand into that market.
“We are working with a variety of manufacturers to ensure that when their end users want to watch film and long-form VR content on their HMDs, the product is certified by THX,” Fiber said.
Although THX will operate as a “lean-startup” separate from its new parent company, Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan said he’s “excited” for THX’s ambitions to bring an improved 3D audio standard to VR.
“THX operates independently from Razer,” Tan said in a statement emailed to VRScout, “but we’re excited to see how they may address VR for the benefit of gamers, developers and the overall entertainment industry.”
Tan said his company, which bought THX for an undisclosed sum, is committed to VR by investing millions of dollars into VR companies and operating the largest network of VR technologists in the world — the Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) software development kit.
“The business is certainly positioned to advance standards across the widest array of growing interests in the space,” Tan said.