Dolby Atmos surround sound technology could transform video games

dolby atmos surround sound technology could transform video games resident evil 6

Dolby Laboratories wants to scare the crap out of you. The famous sound system designer unveiled its latest surround sound technology on Monday, and its implications for entertainment, particularly horror, are hair-raising. Dolby Atmos will be implemented first in movie theaters but the goal is to eventually bring the technology into the home where it will find its place in video games.

Described as Dolby’s “most significant innovation in years,” here’s how Dolby Atmos works. 64 speaker feeds are arranged around a theater. Unlike current speaker arrangements which pump in sound from the right and left sides of the theater to create a surround sound experience, Atmos pumps the sound from above and, as The New York Times puts it, “swirl” sound in any direction.

Senior technical marketing manager at Dolby Laboratories Stuart Bowling immediately used horror, a genre whose effectiveness is defined by sound, as an example of how Atmos will improve the theatrical experience. “You can imagine watching a scary movie, and it’s a scene when someone is hiding in a basement and there are footsteps on the floorboards above. The Atmos system will actually play that audio from above people in the theater,” said Bowling. A demonstration of the technology included what reporter Nick Bolton described as thunderstorm sounds so realistic he thought he’d need an umbrella.

Intriguing to say the least. More intriguing of course is Dolby’s claim that the ultimate goal is to move Dolby Atmos into home theaters with large-screen televisions. This of course is where Atmos’ impact on video games will be greatest.

Dolby Digital audio encoding has been included in many games since the PlayStation 2 and PCs begin using DVDs as their media format of choice. Dolby 5.1-channel audio has, in the past decade, become increasingly common in major game releases, providing for, with the right sound system, a theatrical experience with games. A perfect example of effective surround sound use in a game is the ambient crowd chatter in MLB 2K12.

Dolby Atmos could transform horror and suspense video games into a more tactile experience with the potential to be more physically affecting than motion controls. Where as motion inputs in horror games like Kinect’s Rise of Nightmares are imprecise to the point of destroying tension, Dolby Atmos sound could be used to make it sound like a Resident Evil zombie or Fatal Frame ghost was looming directly above you in the air.

The technology obviously couldn’t be implemented on a broad scale given the expense of a set up, but its potential is exciting all the same.

Digital Trends reached out to Dolby Laboratories to further discuss Dolby Atmos, and while a representative of the company didn’t confirm a timeline for when Atmos will hit home, they did confirm Dolby’s commitment to leaving theaters. “Delivering the most realistic and immersive consumer experiences is central to Dolby’s vision for entertainment.  As the first films with Dolby Atmos arrive in the cinema, we expect people will want to bring the experience home.  Dolby Atmos is revolutionary and it may take time to bring this experience to game devices.  Our research team is already exploring how to do this.”

Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Home Theater

Demystify home audio with our ultimate A/V receiver buying guide

Today's A/V receivers are packed with lots of advanced technology and just plain cool features. From understanding watt ratings to Wi-Fi, we explain how to buy one that will last you for years in our ultimate A/V receiver buying guide.
Home Theater

How to buy speakers: A beginner’s guide to home audio

From the difference between bookshelf speakers and monitors to the proper way to audition, our ultimate speaker buying guide has all the information you need to create your own home audio nirvana.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Home Theater

HDMI 2.0b is a whole lot more than just a connection to your TV

HDMI 2.0b is the backbone for many of the latest updates in 4K UHD technology. And while a new cable standard can often involve a bunch of changes for consumers, that is not the case this time around.
Wearables

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Emerging Tech

When tech goes wrong: Banksy’s shredder was meant to totally destroy his artwork

Banksy's recent auction stunt was meant to totally destroy one of his most famous pieces of work, but a fault with the shredder has left the buyer with something almost certainly worth far more than the $1 million she bid for it.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.