A WebVR experiment exploring spatial audio
In April 2017 Sonic Umbrella was released alongside other WebVR experiments by some other fantastic people as part of Google's WebVR Experiments platform.
$ npm install
Developing an experience that requires a lot of audio playback and processing on a handheld device is a challenge even without sharing resources with WebVR. As this experiment was developed to showcase audio in VR we decided to have a sort of audio first approach meaning that early on we decided that the graphics and physics should be scaled back before any audio features was. However it soon became clear that even with that approach compromises had to be made.
We thought it was a much better spatial experience using HRTF panners instead of equal power for the rain objects but also much more heavy on performance. Once the rain intensity was over a certain level you really couldn’t tell which object plays which sound. So at that level we switch to using equal power panners to save on performance, and when the rain is decreasing again we switch back to the HRTF ones.
Having individual sounds for all objects when it’s raining heavily would not be possible performance-wise and would also not sound as dense as we want. So we fade in an ambience loop to create that heavy rain sound.
Finally we had to limit the amount of voices being able to play back at once and made sure to always have a few slots open in our sound pool by first smoothly fading out audio sources when needed and, if there wasn’t time for that, abruptly stop them - something we tried to avoid.
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