Ossic X 3D headphones create personalized presence for VR, games and music

[This story about the Ossic X 3D headphones includes first-person descriptions of the “real-life” sound the device produces; it’s from Tech Insider, where it includes more images. In coverage by Wareable, Ossic a quote from co-founder and CEO Jason Riggs explicitly refers to presence: “Accurate 3D sound is going to be key. You don’t want to break the sense of presence, or break the illusion. The sounds that are coming from outside your FOV (field-of-view), will make you turn and look at them – and when you do, you want to turn and know exactly what and where it is. That accuracy is going to help with the fundamental premise of VR which is teleporting you to another place. A completely immersive experience and believing you are there.” –Matthew]

Ossic X 3D headphones

I tried the next evolution of headphones and it sounded amazing

Antonio Villas-Boas
Apr. 9, 2016

Virtual reality is at the bleeding edge of consumer technology, but there’s one major component that’s stuck in the past.

Headphones as we know them are OK if you want to experience VR, but they’re not up to the task to reproduce the surround sound you need for the full experience.

Why do you need good surround sound?

For one, it’s key for the immersive experience you get with VR. Virtual reality developers are using sound as an important tool to lead you through a VR experience.

For example, there could be something creeping up behind you making noise, but you won’t know to turn around if you can’t hear where it’s coming from.

For the full effect, VR calls for a new kind of headphone, and a headphone startup called Ossic is stepping up to the plate.

What VR needs

Ossic is making headphones that are primarily designed with VR in mind, and they take three key aspects into consideration to reproduce good surround sound for VR.

Those aspects are the size of your head, the shape of your ears, as well as your position in the space you’re in.

According to Ossic, the way you and I hear the world around us is unique because of the different sizes of our heads (distance between our ears), and the different shape of our ears. Today’s headphones are designed with the average head size and ear shape in mind, which sounds great for people with the average head size and ear shape, but not so much for others.

The Ossic X headphones measure the size of your head with built-in sensors, and Ossic’s software algorithms use that measurement to adjust the sound.

For differently shaped ears, the Ossic X have four drivers (the part of the headphones that actually creates sound) in each cup. Traditional headphones only have one driver, which is designed to deliver sound to the average-shaped ear.

Calibrating the sound according to your head size and ear shape helps the Ossic X deliver the right kind of surround sound for your specific dimensions. You hear sound the way you hear sound, not a test dummy with the average head.

The multiple drivers also create a better 3D soundscape that a single driver can’t reproduce, like making it seem like sound is coming from directly in front or behind you. Having tried conventional surround sound headphones, I can say from experience that I rarely ever got that.

The Ossic X also tracks your head’s position, which helps keep the source of the sound in one place. For example, if someone is talking in front of you and you turn your head to the right, you’ll head the person’s voice with your left ear. That’s something VR headsets can do, but Ossic claims their’s is better.

The result?

I tried a couple prototypes of the Ossic X headphones during a demo with the HTC Vive VR headset, and they were much better than any surround sound headphones I tried in the past.

For VR, it’s by far the closest thing to “real-life” sound I’ve experienced. It sounded rich, full, and natural, and I could tell with better precision where sounds were coming from. To compare, other surround sound headphones I’ve tried sound hollow, and the direction of where a sound is coming from isn’t quite as obvious.

I also tried listening to some Pink Floyd songs, “Money” and “Time” that were originally recorded in 5.1 surround sound. The Ossic X sounded phenomenal. It was incredibly crisp and rich, and it truly sounded like the band was playing right in front of me.

The head tracking also worked with music. It sounded like I was in the recording studio with Pink Floyd when they were playing the songs. When I turned my head to the right, the music stayed in front of me where my body was facing instead of turning around with my head. It’s like virtual reality for audio.

There are a bunch of other applications for this “audio VR,” like gaming and movies.

Ossic launched its Kickstarter campaign in late February with a $100,000 goal. As of this writing, Ossic has garnered $1.65 million. That roughly translates to “there’s something worthwhile here.” The Ossic X are priced at $250 for the early Kickstarter adopters (the cheaper packages are all gone), and the full retail price will be $399 when Ossic launches the X headphones early next year.

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