March 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

SXSW: How 3D Audio Could Direct Walkers, Bikers, Joggers with Sound

sonic emotion 3d audio headquakeSonic Emotion makes an app called HeadQuake (free, iOS) that adds 3D dimensionality to your downloaded music. It’s pretty neat — not only does the sound get more “present” with the 3D feature turned on, but you can drag the speakers forward or back, or move the “band” playing the music closer or farther away. It also comes with a nice graphical equalizer.

The free version of the app is partially a promotion for the company’s wavefield synthesis DSP chips, found in Onkyo, Toshiba, and Samsung soundbars — and for the pro version of the app ($2, in-app purchase), which adds the abilities to save specific settings for each song (as in the player will remember how you wanted that song to sound), and to tailor the app’s sound to your headphones (current models include Apple and Beats, with more to come).

This is all well and good, but what really excited us about Sonic Emotion’s possibilities is a feature that has yet to be added, because it’s still in the theoretical stage.

Sonic Emotion demonstrated a “gyroscope” feature on the show floor of SXSW for us, which swept the stereo field around us in a circle. Basically, it felt like Robin Thicke and his “Blurred Lines” jam rotated around us clockwise, starting at the front.

The idea that intrigues us so, is that Sonic Emotion is considering integrating this feature into navigation for jogging, bicycling, or walking.

“There a lot of things we can do with the audio stream coupled with the gyroscope [feature], for example,” said Sonic Emotion CEO Rajeev Kapur. “You’re jogging, and you’re hearing [the music coming a little more from] the right side, and you’ve got an app integrated with it — you could run off to the right, because the sound is pulling you to the right.

“You could follow the sound, program your routes based on your music, and then we can integrate that with… streaming music providers, we could integrate with [Google] Maps to overlay a run map… We can customize our algorithms to fit any need… Let’s say FitBit or Jawbone want to have a way to integrate that into their app, we could do that — they could license our algorithm, and boom, we’re good to go.”

If that happens, by next year, as you’re listening to music on your jog, walk, or bike ride, you’ll be able to follow your route directions without looking at your screen or interrupting your jams with robotic voice instructions.