Wearable Tech World Feature Article
November 21, 2014

Samsung Gear VR Gets Major Sound Boost From Fraunhofer Cingo

It's a part of virtual reality (VR) that often goes overlooked: the sound. While we often focus on the visual side of VR, looking at the graphics and how things look while in the midst of that amazing VR experience, we don't think so much about the sound. Yet this is a very important part of establishing that immersion factor, and as such, Samsung Gear VR has brought in a little help to better establish that oh-so-important immersive sound. Specifically, the Samsung Gear VR is now the first Samsung device to use Fraunhofer Cingo 3D sound systems, making VR that much more immersive.

With the new Fraunhofer Cingo systems, Samsung Gear VR users can actually perceive differences in sound, being able to note whether a sound comes from in front of the user, behind said user, or in any other direction, allowing the sound to seem that much more authentic. Cingo technology was originally developed as a means to improve playback on stereos, as well as surround sound systems and even on mobile devices, but with the move to the Samsung Gear VR, Cingo technology can now provide an extra dimension to sound that should improve the overall experience.

Since Cingo is available as a software implementation that's product-ready, it can be added to a variety of devices from chipsets to mobile devices outright and even to multimedia services. Fraunhofer's head of business for audio and multimedia, Harald Popp, offered up some explanation of the impact of Cingo's addition to the Samsung Gear VR, saying “Owners of the Samsung Gear VR will be pleased with the fully immersive experience powered by Galaxy Note 4. With the advancements of Fraunhofer Cingo that add a height dimension to sound, various elements can be placed anywhere in a virtual space around the listener.”

This move should really help Samsung Gear VR take its place in the market. While it's already going to have to face down stiff competition from the Oculus Rift, when it actually hits the market—some reports suggest that it may be this February, though this is largely speculation—it helps that the two work in somewhat different markets. Indeed, Oculus reportedly had a hand in the development of the Samsung Gear VR, so there's certainly a point to consider in that. At any rate, a VR system that can comfortably help users track sound location will prove to be more immersive, and thus more valuable, than one that does not. If all the sound sounds like it's coming from the side or in front of the user, the overall experience will likely prove somewhat dilute, and less effective overall. But if the sound can be more realistically distributed, that should improve the experience and make it more effective.

It's still too soon to tell just what kind of impact this will have on the overall market since many of the players aren't even on the field yet. But with this kind of development going into things, it's clear that there should be plenty of exciting developments to come. The market is clearly ready for a powerful virtual reality solution to step into the field, and whether it's Samsung, Oculus, or something else, it's all going to come down to the best value for the cash involved. Samsung might have an edge, particularly in the mobile field, but it's still going to prove a race to watch nonetheless.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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