Facebook developing audio ’˜superpowers’ for AR glasses

Facebook developing audio ’˜superpowers’ for AR glasses
Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) is developing ‘novel technologies’ to allow audio presence and ‘perceptual superpowers’ to allow users to improve hearing in noisy environments with Facebook’s future AR glasses.

Facebook Reality Labs’ team of research scientists, engineers and designers aims to create virtual sounds that are indistinguishable from reality, developing ‘audio presence’ to provide the feeling that a virtual sound is physically present in the same space as the listener and developing technological advancements that allow users to improve hearing by turning up the volume of the person sitting across from the user and turning down the volume of unwanted background noise. 

Pablo Hoffmann, research scientist, FRL, has developed an ‘always-on’ audio calibration system to allow users to hear sounds in ‘ultra-high’ fidelity through a pair of headphones without coloration from hardware, using FRL Research’s algorithm and software processing technologies with stock hardware to create personalised audio, recreating a room’s acoustics and making a hardware device acoustically transparent. 
The headphones, with microphones placed at the entrance of a user’s ears, record the sounds of the room from the user’s perspective, creating virtual sounds. 

To create spatial audio, the FRL team is using an anechoic chamber facility suspended on springs and separated from the surrounding building by a gap of fair and steel panels on all sides to absorb echo, using a mechanical arm with 54 loudspeakers from top to bottom, rotating freely in a 360 degrees arc to play tones to measure how sound reacts to the unique geometry of a user’s ears.

This process creates a digital representation of a user’s experience of hearing spatialised audio, allowing users to perceive sounds in a realistic way known as head-related transfer function (HRTF). 

The FRL team is considering novel approaches to this technology, planning to develop an algorithm to approximate a workable, personalised HRTF from a photograph of a user’s ears. 

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