_3D Audio and its Accessibility with PS5

_Back in early 2020, Mark Cerny, the lead system architect for the SONY PlayStation Company held a talk about the soon to be released PlayStation 5 console an its technological aspects and achievements. He explained how they ventured into the field of a new audio technique, the 3D audio engine TEMPEST – it makes it possible for users, to hear ingame sounds with a feeling, as if they were happening around them, by some clever tricks outsmarting our brain and the way it detects sounds. This is, shortly speaking, by measuring the time between an incoming sound signal on the one ear and the arrival on the other ear, defined by the inner distance of our ears to each other, which the brain knows inherently. So, timing sounds just with the right time between left and right headphone speakers the illusion of the sound happening in real life can be achieved.

_To get this done, they scanned several hundred peoples hearing data, there known as HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function) and handpicked some of the most common ones to put it into the TEMPEST engine. He also explains that given the fact if this complex and very subjectional/individual perception – and the fact not every user can be scanned to get their personal HRTF – maybe not everyone is physically able to perceive 3D audio correctly – for some it only seems like a bit better stereo audio.

So, in the end one could say future technologies can open the doors for some, but slam the doors shut for others. Although they will try to synthesize HRTF data in the future to maybe make it able to even a wider range of people it may be locked aways for some forever.

_On a side note, MINECRAFT (MOJANG) also did some development into a highly sophisticated system for full 3D spatialization for ingame sounds as an optional feature, meaning you could determine the location of a noise emitter very accurately by hearing it alone. In the end, this system was turned down serval notches (pun intended) to it only determining, if a sound offscreen comes more from either the right or left side and indicated this with an arrow appended to the subtitles pointing in either one of these to directions. They scrapped the idea of spatial sound effects because they realized in competitive games this feature could, if turned on, help players gain an unfair advantage against other which chose not to play with it.

_Literature & Resources

  1. The Road to PS5, Mark Cerny https://youtu.be/ph8LyNIT9sg
  2. How PlayStation 5 Was Built (feat. Mark Cerny) https://youtu.be/cJkx-OLgLzo
  3. https://blog.de.playstation.com/2021/05/11/3d-audio-der-ps5-die-entwickler-von-returnal-und-resident-evil-village-sprechen-ueber-die-tempest-engine-technologie/
  4. https://medium.com/potato/the-right-to-play-accessibility-in-gaming-a954b01023f

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