Like many other areas of technology, sound quality has improved with developments in audio and music production techniques.
From the scratchy noises emitted by a gramophone, through to the advent of cassette tapes and then CDs, we can now enjoy the rich, clean audio quality of digital music files streamed wirelessly to our headphones via Bluetooth. Noise canceling technology further enhances the listening experience by blocking out unwanted background noise.
From Movie Theatre to Home Theatre: Surround Sound’s Evolution
Alongside the developments in personal listening, there have been incremental developments in the Surround Sound technology deployed in movie theaters and increasingly, in the home. Dolby Stereo made the last truly significant leap forward with the launch of their four-channel Surround Sound, launched in the 1970s with the first Star Wars movie.
Since then, there has been little that could be classed as revolutionary. Surround Sound
evolved into Digital Surround, and additional channels were added. These days, many home cinema systems can deliver similar quality sound to what is found in movie theaters.
Better than the sound on theatres. Image source: alconsaudio.com
While developments in audio have not appeared to deliver much that is ground-breaking, those in visual media have been relentless. Advancements in CGI mean that animations used in movies and games are now so high-quality, in some cases, they are indistinguishable from real-life sequences.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, LG announced that it will soon launch the 8K TV. Virtual and augmented reality can create entire worlds that seem as real as our own surroundings.
With all this in mind, the advent of 4D sound could be the trigger event that finally levels the audio experience to the same quality as the visual experience. But what is 4D sound, and what difference will it make to the average audio consumer?
What Is 4D Sound?
When we hear music through a regular headphone set, the sound is delivered using a fixed directional transfer of sound waves, from the earphones to our ears. This doesn’t reflect the way we hear sound in real life. In reality, our ears can detect the location and distance of sounds based on our own position.
For example, if you walk along a street, you can hear birds in the trees above you—if you walk away from them, the sound gets fainter. We can feel the difference between the distant rumble of a train, versus a plane flying by overhead or a car whizzing past us on a busy street.
Regular earphones can only recreate these kinds of sounds in their simplest form, which
can evoke an audio experience, but not really replicate it. On the other hand, 4D
headphones can accurately reproduce the depth, range, perspective, and distance of sound,
as it existed in the real originating environment.
Given the capacity for virtual reality (VR) to accurately recreate a real-life visual experience, then perhaps it is unsurprising that a VR company is pioneering the use of 4D audio technology. VR blockchain company Ceek will soon be launching its own 4D Advanced Headphones as a complement to its existing offering.
Using the Ceek 4D Advanced Headphones and VR headset, users can consume an array of content streamed directly from their smartphone with the company’s app. This creates a fully immersive, rich audio-visual experience unlike any other product offering on today’s market.
One of the more fascinating features of the Ceek headphones is their ability to deliver sounds that respond to the movements and location of the user in a VR environment. The headphones use real-time audio processors to model sound in dynamic environments, considering the characteristics and geometry of the surroundings.
This means that as a user, you can hear sound from where it emanates in relation to your own physical position. Haptic feedback is also incorporated based on acoustical intensity. So a deep bass sound actually reverberates in the ear as it would in real life.
All this combines to deliver a listening experienced far beyond what a 5.1 or even 7.1 surround sound system can provide. Such a dynamic sound delivery brings a whole new level of immersion in different environments. This could be a 360-degree live-action game, or it could replicate standing in a concert arena watching and listening to a favorite artist.
Although Ceek is not the only company to develop 4D headphones, they are the first company to create a real use case for them beyond enhanced music listening. VR technology has been accused of failing to land, despite promising market forecasts.
The perfect combination of VR and 4D headset. Image source: psfk.com
The development of 4D headphones is just one of the measures that Ceek is taking in an attempt to prove VR naysayers wrong.
4D Headphones in the Mainstream
Ceek recently partnered with Real Madrid’s soccer player Dani Carvajal and music giants such as U2, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Sting and many more. As the Ceek 4D Advanced Headphones are set to launch towards the end of the year, this strategic timing, combined with the ability to reach huge fan bases means that this holiday season could mark a pivotal moment where VR, as well as 4D headphones, start to go mainstream.