BBC 3D audio technology aims to revolutionise home entertainment

3D audio is hardly a novel idea, but most technologies involved – whether that’s Dolby Atmos or Sennheiser’s Ambeo – require proprietary equipment (such as speakers, headphones, and receivers with decoders) to take advantage of them.

But the S3A project team (researchers from BBC R&D and the Universities of Surrey, Salford, Southampton) claims to have found a way to bring immersive spatial audio experiences into the living room through the speakers in devices that people already have at home - smartphones, tablets and laptops, for example.

The ‘object-based media’ technology aims to reproduce audio regardless of what devices people connect and where they’re located in a room by separating sounds in a mix and using an ‘intelligent’ system to interpret instructions on how the sounds can be reassembled based on the connected speakers in a room.

The technology has been described by Kristian Hentschel and Jon Francombe at BBC R&D as “a surround sound system, but without the hassle of cables and expensive loudspeakers” and “an exciting spatial audio experience that will revolutionise home entertainment”.

S3A is testing the waters with a new 13-minute sci-fi drama, The Vostok-K Incident. The idea is that the audio experience gets better the more devices that are connected in your home, unlocking immersive spatial aspects as well as extra hidden content.

The team, which comprises writers, sound designers, research scientists and developers, used the help of production company Naked Productions to record and mix the content using a novel format that is flexible enough to adapt to whatever devices are connected in the home.

The The Vostok-K Incident can be accessed at BBC Taster and seems fairly simple to set-up, with a step-by-step interface prompting you to connect multiple devices to the experience through an online link and pairing code.

[Image credit: S3A Spatial Audio]


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10+ years in the hi-fi industry, she has reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.