Efficient 3D audio

Dr. Sascha Dick awarded second prize of the Hugo-Geiger-Prize

How can you create a realistic and enveloping sound experience for your home cinema that can be streamend via the Internet? Dr. Sascha Dick tackled this question in his dissertation – and made second place of the Hugo Geiger Prize for his findings. The prize comes with 3,000 Euros and is awarded every year by the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy (StMWi) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: It honours outstanding, application-oriented PhD theses written in close cooperation with a Fraunhofer Institute.

When watching a movie at home, the listening experience plays an important role. To put you right in the middle of the action, the sound must be realistic and enveloping. But 3D sound requires a high data rate or lots of storage. This is because the soundtrack of a movie shown at the cinema works with up to 128 audio tracks. In his dissertation, titled „Psychoacoustic Effects and Models for Processing and Coding of 3-Dimensional Audio“, Dr. Sascha Dick found a solution to bring this sound experience to the home cinema via Internet streaming.

He asked himself: What do we actually hear spatially and how can this be used for the transmission and processing of 3D audio? After numerous listening experiments, the researcher found that the accuracy with which people localise spatially distributed sound sources can also be determined by data analysis using high-resolution sound measurement. On this basis, he created a psychoacoustic model that, among other things, describes the perceived spatial distribution of sound sources’ volume and shows which sources are indistinguishable. By combining these sources, it is possible to reduce their number by a factor of ten while maintaining excellent sound quality.

In practice, this “perceptual coordinate system” makes it possible to develop efficient 3D audio coding algorithms for a wide range of applications. Its significantly reduced data rates enable the high-quality conversion of films for home cinema use as well as real-time applications for virtual reality and gaming. Speech intelligibility and accessibility can also be improved through the intelligent combination of sound sources.

The award ceremony took place on February 28at the Netzwert Symposium in Munich, the central networking event of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. Bavaria’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, presented the award together with Fraunhofer President Prof. Holger Hanselka.

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