Computer vision and sound experts at the University of Surrey have demonstrated “Media Device Orchestration,” an innovative home audio system that enables users to enjoy the immersive audio experience by using all the available devices in their living room.
The Media Device Orchestrations (MDO) concept has been developed at Surrey in collaboration with the Universities of Salford and Southampton and BBC Research & Development.
Using the MDO concept, the researchers have demonstrated that a 3D or ‘spatial audio’ experience can be achieved by employing everyday home devices in the living room, like a laptop, smartphone or wireless mini-speaker. The technology works by isolating different objects within audio content and connecting them to separate speakers available around the room.
The concept could allow consumers to enjoy films, games, programs and music in a more immersive, multi-layered and exciting way.
It is possible to create 3D listening experiences using current spatial audio technology, but it requires a complex set-up involving many speakers located at the exact points in relation to the listener. Because of the limitations, the technology cannot easily be replicated in a domestic situation and is usually limited to specialist environments like cinemas and theme park experiences.
The MDO research is part of a five-year S3A project, funded by EPSRC that is aimed at delivering a step-change in quality of audio consumed by the general public.
The development of immersive spatial audio systems has been a major focus for the audio research community and the audio industry in recent years for a few reasons. With the invention of advanced home video technology like the 3D television, there is a need for audio technology to ‘catch up’ in order to match the viewer’s experience. At the same time, the growth of virtual reality (VR) for video games and other applications creates demand for a sense of sound that surrounds the user.
Along with the ‘channel-based’ sound production (in which the reproduction system is fixed before the content is broadcast), ‘object-based’ audio is a recently emerged type of sound production on the commercial market, like the Dolby Atmos. Object-based audio technology has enabled the S3A researchers to access a separate part of an audio scene and intelligently routes them to improve the user experience.
The University of Surrey combines expertise in the computer vision and machine listening and sound perception. This has enabled a user-focused solution rather than a lab-based approach.
Dr. Philip Jackson, senior lecturer in machine audition at Surrey, said, "Most consumer audio transmitted into our homes is in the form of two-channel stereo which uses basic principles that have been around for over 130 years. To date, sophisticated multi-channel audio techniques have not helped to improve the listening experience for the general public. Our aim is to take spatial audio out of the lab and into people's homes, and give users the impression of being at the heart of the action while in their living room."
The MDO concept is being further developed by the S3A team in order to automate the process of ‘labeling’ sounds and connecting them with the available speakers.
A research paper on this topic was published by the Institute Sound Recording.