As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…
This week, Kevin Bolen and I were discussing the idea of audio standards for VR. The quick version is that neither of us feel that VR is quite ready for a standard yet. The two most popular specs are Ambisonics and Quad Binaural, and both have their limitations…which is why I’m hesitant to see either become the default standard. Perhaps if a potential standard/spec supported both? Though we’re still saddled with the limitations of each in that scenario.
Kevin had a terrific point as to why he feels we’re not quite ready yet. His words: “We haven’t seen a truly native VR piece yet.” Most pieces that we’ve seen come out so far have been adaptations of existing media, with steps towards making unique use of the medium. Remember that story of people reacting to an early film showing a train racing towards the screen? That’s where VR is; in its infancy. We still haven’t figured out what VR will be. It took another decade or two before film became anything more than a fad or spectacle. As film progressed, the approach to the use of sound for it did as well. The development of sound for film was limited by the development of its technology though, which lagged behind the technological development of film.
Right now, we have the inverse. Sound technology and aesthetics for media is currently well ahead of VR. This isn’t to say that developing a standard is a waste of time. It’s just that we need to recognize the fact that whatever gets set up now will have to be incredibly flexible or changed, potentially very quickly, as VR develops…lest we find ourselves in a situation where we’re lacking the capability to truly support and augment experiences we haven’t even imagined yet.