Spatial Perception has new avenues to explore with Virtual Reality
According to a study, the sounds around us and how we perceive them will make better sense with VR and AR. Our ears help us with each and every minute twitch or tick that happens around us. Actually making sense and locating the sound even in a crowded place is a complex task. Our brain does it so often that we tend to ignore the intricacy of it many times. Actually determining the location from which a certain sound originates from cues that are at times conflicting. This is a hard process. Virtual Reality is aiding researchers to actually use new techniques to study this process.
The setting must be natural to conduct such studies. Spatial perception is studied using various tools in a controlled environment. The researchers feel that this new finding of better sense with VR in technology will help make better hearing aids. It will also help in the diagnosis of ear ailments people have. Also, the gaming experience will also be enriched with better sound.
Virtual Reality helps provide a 360-degree view of the environment. It helps garner attention to the source of a sound, to understand where it is actually coming from. Such knowledge will help in navigating especially if there is imminent danger. For example an oncoming speeding car.
The Acoustical Society of America held a meeting between 7-11 May. This study, presented at the meeting in Minneapolis, included the pattern in which people used implicit as well as explicit sound hints using VR and AR.
This better sense with VR study is ongoing. There is one where participant’s wear displays. These engross them in an environment which resembles a park. In this environment, the participant is expected to tilt towards the source of a sound. There is a Ph.D. student who is observing the experiment. This student is busy working with two of the crucial hints based on location. The first cue is the time difference when the sound actually reaches the ear. So it is millionths of seconds. The second cue is the difference in the ear pressure levels. Each ear registers a level of pressure which is measured.
The brain assigns a particular weight to such cues. This seemed to be different among different participants. Better sense with VR is an important observation as there is very little knowledge regarding the actual working of the brain and the ear to process such multiple cues.
There is a separate study in progress that studies how different types of sounds affect the spatial awareness in a person. The sound quality, and also echoes influence spatial sound recognition. The brain is what knows where what is exactly. The ear represents sounds clearly, its frequency, its clarity,and intensity but the brain figures out its origin.
There may be a time when AR will make realistic virtual personas of people. These studies of implicit sounds are what will enable this.
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