Key Release: Iosono

Key Release: Iosono
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

September 13th 2013 at 10:15AM

Develop looks at a new spatial audio offering from German outfit Iosono

[This feature was published in the September 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

What is it? A pairing of technology and consumer hardware that lets games developers deliver a more detailed, immersive soundscape
Company: Iosono
www.iosono-sound.com

Iosono, formed eight years ago, has long specialised in 3D audio for the cinema and consumer electronics space. And now it is bringing its distinct technology to the games industry.

The company has built its reputation providing audio tech for the likes of conference venues and, at the top end, movie theatres sporting 60 speaker systems and swathes of cabling, where vast rendering power is available to plunge audience members into a detailed soundscape produced by a combination of Iosono’s software and hardware.

And now it hopes that it can serve games developers and consumers by bringing a parallel offering to the living room, where players will experience audio in a more natural way that better represents the reality of a 3D soundscape through the Proximity technology.

To deliver its potential in games the set-up requires the use of special Proximity speakers, and tweaks to existing middleware and proprietary tech at the games developer or tool provider’s side. It means some investment of effort from both the creator and consumer, but promises to offer refined sound unrivalled by any existing speaker or headphone systems.

CLOSE TO CRYSIS

While the general public may need a little convincing about investing in new hardware – which Iosono is preparing for with a marketing campaign – games studios are already readily embracing the solution, including Crytek, which has recently mixed Crysis 3’s audio for Proximity.

“Proximity actually is the right term,” offers senior audio designer Christian Schilling. “It brings things closer to your ears. It sounds a bit as if you’re using headphones, it simulates that the sound source is really close to your head. That’s what I experienced with Proximity; things get much closer than you’re used to from common sound systems. It had a bit of a magnetic effect for me.”

And it is that ‘magnetic effect’ that Iosono hopes will make Proximity attractive, in that it will give players a more appealing, immersive  game experience by making it less obvious any given speaker in the room is a sound source, instead positioning the audio around the playing space in way that makes it feel more distinct.

“It lets gamers be far more immersed, and have a closer connection with their games,” states Iosono CEO Olaf Stepputat. “It will let players have a better sense of the game they are in, so they can drive faster, shoot more accurately and be better at gaming. That will really matter to developers and publishers, as it makes the connection with games even stronger than it was in the past. This is why Proximity is very important, and this is what Iosono can deliver to developers.”

UNDERSTANDING AUDIO

For now Proximity is in a beta phase, as Iosono works with games developers to help them better understand both the technology and hardware. Similarly, the company is currently partnering with numerous middleware providers to ready their solutions for the launch of consumer speakers in 2014.

“Now we have started the process of integrating our technology into games middleware, so that it is already there for games developers,” says Stepputat. “The prototype is already done for Fmod and for Wwise, and now we are more working with many more integrations. Eventually we will do this for ever relevant games middleware available.”

Presently, the company is making available middleware extensions and an SDK to allow developers to ready their game engines for the arrival of the consumer Proximity hardware, which works alongside existing speaker systems. And it’s something Schilling would recommend that his contemporaries consider, for one simple reason.

“I think as a sound designer you can control the player’s emotions more precisely,” he says of Proximity’s potential. “The player can really dive into the situation. During a fight for example you feel the enemy coming at you, it actually seems like he’s passing you.”

If Schilling’s enthusiasm for the tech is anything to go by, it appears Iosono’s offering is at least worth further investigation.

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