Atmosphea changes the rules for immersive audio

The Fraunhofer Digital Media Technology Institute (IDMT) has joined forces with Shure Europe to commercialise acoustic wave field synthesis (WFS), its groundbreaking immersive audio system, and transform one of Europe's most successful planetariums.

Atmosphea, installed at the Hamburg planetarium, uses licensed technology from Fraunhofer IDMT and QSC’s Q-Sys system and loudspeakers, to deliver immersive media in an application tipped to change expectations of planetarium audio systems.

Thomas Kraupe, director of the planetarium, said immersive audio was just as important, if not more so, than video for this application. “Despite planetarium developments focusing on visual productions, 50% of our perception is sound,” he noted.

With 300,000 visitors a year the Hamburg planetarium was under pressure to continue to deliver exceptional and new experiences and Kraupe believes the Atmosphea system will play a huge role.

The system departs from channel-based audio reproduction, instead focusing on objects, so sound appears to come from specific points in the space. It builds on Fraunhofer’s work in WFS, started by the institute’s Professor Brandenburg.

Audio processing and careful selection of loudspeakers has reduced the number of speakers required to make the system economically viable.

Torsten Haack, director of the System Group at Shure, said: “There are three major applications for this technology. Firstly you can transform room acoustics with the ability change reverberation at the push of a button. Secondly you have the ability to create worlds with 3D sound and finally you have the flexibility to position the source wherever you choose."

The Atmosphea system at the Hamburg planetarium utilises 15 four-channel QSC power amps, 60 QSC AD-S loudspeakers and four subwoofers. By driving each loudspeaker individually up to 32 freely-positioned audio sources can be reproduced around the dome.

InAVate has covered the evolution of WFS for a number of years. Click the links below to read more:

Case study detailing application of WFS at Fraunhofer HHI in Berlin

Interview with Professor Brandenburg, Fraunhofer IDMT, including details of early development of WFS

Interview with Daniel Beer, head of Electroacoustics at Fraunhofer IDMT, covering a loudspeaker technology sparked from research into WFS

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