Steam Audio Promises More Realistic Sound For Games And VR

by Ian Hamilton • February 23rd, 2017

Valve today released a new tool called Steam Audio that represents the fruit of its purchase of Impulsonic in January. The tech promises sound which very realistically responds to a virtual environment and would serve as an improvement over the standard 3D audio.

In the demo video below you can hear the audio change as a player moves around a virtual room. In particular, some of the sound is partially blocked by a wall, altering the pitch and volume more than normal.

It is a pretty sparse example, but when applied to VR you would have sound that more realistically matches your actions and behavior. Crouching to hide underneath a desk as an alien creeps nearby takes on new meaning when the creature’s steps sound slightly different depending how much of the desk is blocking or reflecting the sound before it hits your ears. steam-audio

From the Steam Audio page:

Reflections and reverb can add a lot to spatial audio. Steam Audio uses the actual scene geometry to simulate reverb. This lets users sense the scene around them through subtle sound cues, an important addition to VR audio. This physics-based reverb can handle many important scenarios that don’t easily fit within a simple box-model.

Steam Audio applies physics-based reverb by simulating how sound bounces off of the different objects in the scene, based on their acoustic material properties (a carpet doesn’t reflect as much sound as a large pane of glass, for example). Simulations can run in real-time, so the reverb can respond easily to design changes. Add furniture to a room, or change a wall from brick to drywall, and you can hear the difference.

The tech supports PC, Mac, Linux and Android. It is launching with Unity integration but Unreal Engine 4 support is coming soon with other software integrations planned as well.

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  • mirak

    I hate they just buy a audio company and call the tech steam audio.

    • wheeler

      I love that they just bought something and made it free. Don’t really care about the name.

      • Robert Cole

        Valve’s openness to freely share their tech is critical at this pivotal point in VR’s development.

        Open development is the way forward to give developers great tools so they can focus on delivering “compelling content”, as that in the end, is all that truly matters if we are to engage consumers with VR.

  • dan bryant

    “Crouching to hide underneath a desk as an alien creeps nearby”

    Alien isolation VR confirmed!
    No?…….😐

    • unreal_ed

      Can’t you already play Alien Isolation in VR?

      • dan bryant

        Not with a CV1 you can’t
        Worked on the DK1 tho