Sounds Good: Valve Acquires 3D Audio Company Impulsonic

by Jamie Feltham • January 13th, 2017

The HTC Vive is finally getting integrated headphones later this year, and co-creator Valve’s latest acquisition could help you get the most out of them.

The SteamVR maker has picked up 3D audio company Impulsonic for an undisclosed sum, as confirmed on the company’s website. In a statement the team noted that it will use Valve’s “resources and expertise” to “push Phonon and VR audio” to a new level. Phonon is a physically-based sound propagation and 3D audio solution that Impulsonic has been developing for use with VR software. It’s available as a plug-in for development engines like Unity and Unreal.

It’s been a while since the company has demoed its tech, but you can see (or, more accurately, hear) the state it was in a year ago at CES 2016 below.

Over on Twitter, the company assured that it would continue work on Phonon, with the next release set to include “major updates”. The most recent version, 1.7 ‘Sylvester’, was released last August.

Impulsonic will be moving into Valve’s offices in Bellevue, Washington “over the coming weeks”. Further details of the acquisition, including just how much Valve paid for the team, have not been disclosed. We’ve reached out to Valve directly to ask about the company’s plans for its new team.

3D audio is a vital part of making VR experiences convincing and immersive. What you’re hearing inside a headset is just as important as what you’re seeing, as you’ll need voices and other effects to sound accurate based on both distance and the direction you’re facing in relation to their origin. Without good audio it can be hard to believe you’re truly in another place, and hopefully Valve will be working with Impulsonic to make quality 3D audio available to a wide range of VR developers.

Impulsonic had previously signed up to Razer’s open virtual reality ecosystem, OSVR. “We wish to thank all of the users and beta-testers who have helped us bring Phonon and VR Audio this far; we hope you will continue to support us as we begin the next stage of our journey,” the team’s statement concludes. “We’ll have more to announce soon.”

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  • wheeler

    Glad to hear there’s so much work being put into 3D audio. It really does make a big difference in VR.