Clubhouse embraces spatial audio for more lifelike conversations

[Short stories from The Verge and Reuters provide details on a new presence-enhancing feature in the Clubhouse audio chat app. See a February 2021 ISPR Presence News post for more about Clubhouse. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: Engadget. Credit: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Clubhouse embraces spatial audio for more lifelike conversations

Speakers are distributed in 3D space just like the real world

By Thomas Ricker
August 30, 2021

Clubhouse began rolling out a iOS app update on Sunday that enables spatial audio support. The Android update is “coming soon,” according to the company. The feature works by introducing subtle spatial cues that position speakers on Clubhouse calls into three-dimensional space around your head, making the remote listening experience a better approximation of being in a room full of people. It works best with headphones, either Bluetooth or wired.

Clubhouse tweeted out a video allowing you to hear for yourself how it sounds.

Clubhouse’s implementation of spatial audio first assigns a specific position to each speaker and then evenly distributes them around a room. It then applies HRTFs, or head related transfer functions, similar to what we’ve seen used by Microsoft in the HoloLens to make it seem like you’re in the center of a conversation. Clubhouse’s implementation doesn’t include head tracking like Apple’s, which makes audio from Netflix and Apple TV Plus shows seem like it’s coming from your playback device as you move your head.

Spatial audio is having a moment in 2021 after Apple embraced it across the company’s product lines. Sony added 3D audio to the PS5, and followed the launch of the Amazon Echo Studio with its own object-based 360-degree speaker this year. Even Verizon is getting in on the game.

[From Reuters]

Clubhouse launches surround-sound feature to help chats feel life-like

By Sheila Dang
August 29, 2021

Clubhouse, an audio-only chat app, said on Sunday it will launch a spatial audio feature to make voices sound as if they’re coming from different directions, helping conversations and virtual performances feel more life-like.

The app, which is backed by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, jumpstarted the social audio trend last year and became known for chatrooms of thousands that included chief executives and celebrities. However, it faces increasing competition from larger tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, which have all introduced their own social audio chat features.

The new surround-sound-like feature will help Clubhouse lean into performances and entertainment rooms that have proliferated on the app.

Depending on how many speakers are in a Clubhouse room and a variety of other factors, the app’s technology will assign users a spatial positioning, so that the listener will hear the voices surround them in their headphones, said Justin Uberti, Clubhouse’s head of streaming technology.

In comedy rooms for instance, Clubhouse’s technology will detect the main speaker and place that person’s voice in the “front,” while the laughter of other people could sound as if they’re coming from a listener’s left and right sides, he said.

“I could hear people laughing and the room erupts around me,” Uberti said. “You can imagine in music … there’s a lot of potential.”

The spatial technology also makes it easier to detect when different users are speaking, whereas people previously might have to pay attention to the speakers’ cadence and vocal timbre, he added.

Clubhouse, which started as an invite-only app and recently was opened to all users, said more than 700,000 rooms are now created each day, up from 300,000 in May.

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