The goal of a videogame is to take you on an entertaining and immersive journey through a virtual world; however, this is very challenging if the user is navigating via a controller, sitting in a chair, and gazing upon a distant monitor. Indeed, we have made significant progress. Technologies such as the Oculus Rift offer an unparalleled visual experience and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Kinect has even placed us on our feet while removing the controller. However, a widely overlooked detail in gaming is sound. Sound is one of the most important details in an immersive experience, but the lack of support that sound engineers have attained in recent years has placed a ceiling over their heads. In response, AMD (NYSE:AMD) developed the technology known as TrueAudio to lift this ceiling and it has enabled developers to create a more engaging experience with features like 3D audio. For this article, I will explore AMD's sound technology and draw its importance for the gaming community.
The importance of sound
Despite its continuous immersion within our daily lives, sound is ostensibly underappreciated and underrepresented. This comes as no surprise as it is exceptionally challenging to sell sound, which is why companies like Beats resort to popular rappers and styling to engage their customers. However, this only further supports how difficult it is to sell sound because Beats isn't really selling the sound itself, as its headphones are of low quality and provide an appalling sound experience. This shuts out companies who actually offer premium-sounding headphones and is a perfect example of why the importance of sound is widely overlooked. It is no different in video games, as sound engineers have suffered the attention they need in order to submerge gamers into a virtual experience.
The importance of sound is mind-blowing. Whether you're listening to music, watching a movie, or playing a game, the quality of sound plays arguably the biggest role in an experience. In a movie theater, you'll notice that the shape of the room, speaker positioning, and special sound dampening material on the wall all contribute to that wonderful sound experience. Sound in a video game is even more important due to the interactive, artificial environment, which is why AMD is taking this seriously with features such as 3D sound.
TrueAudio supports 3D sound enabled by GenAudio Astound Sound
If you listen to just the sound from this very popular video known as the Virtual Barber Shop with your headphones (required), you can hear and experience how truly immersive 3D sound can be. If you decide to spend a few minutes listening, close your eyes, use your headphones, and be prepared for some chills if this is your first time.
Just as your two eyes can determine depth, your two ears can determine location. With the right technology provided by Astound Sound, this illusion can be demonstrated through just headphones and without the need of a surround sound system. In fact, headphones enable a more realistic experience; after all, you do only have two ears. Since each ear is positioned on opposing sides of your head, they both experience sound in different ways with respect to intensity and delay. With each ear receiving different sound intensities and arrival times, your brain can majestically calculate and determine exactly where sounds come from whether the source is from your 3 o-clock, 6 o-clock, or even 7 o-clock. Through a first-person perspective, the advantage in determining location through sound is phenomenal, which brings video games a step closer to the goal of creating the most immersive virtual reality possible.
TrueAudio also frees CPU load
With AMD's TrueAudio technology, a dedicated digital signal processor built into the GPU core handles all of the sound processing while improving the soundscape. This frees up CPU cycles and allows them to be used for other tasks. From a sound engineering point, engineers can stop worrying about their "CPU processor budget" that acts as a ceiling in their ability to create the best sound possible.
With TrueAudio, sound engineers will enjoy the benefit of adding more simultaneous sounds from different locations. This is important because even as I write this in a café on a table outside, I can hear a wide variety of sounds. I can hear cars, trucks, birds, conversations, whistling leaves, construction work and more, not to mention that all of this sound is bouncing and echoing around the surrounding walls. Our surroundings are full of sound, and TrueAudio allows developers to recreate these experiences and incorporate it into our games, especially within the background. While these are just small details, they make a world of difference.
Since AMD is in charge of powering all of the latest gaming consoles, it has gained a strong influence on the gaming community. AMD's recent technologies like its performance-boosting API, known as Mantle, have lifted the ceiling on what developers can do. Mantle allowed developers to get the most performance possible out of AMD's Radeon graphics cards, which in turn has given these graphics cards a performance edge over the competition with supported games.
With TrueAudio, the story is the same. By lifting the sound load off of the CPU and putting it on a very capable dedicated processor, gaming performance can again be slightly improved while allowing for a truly immersive sound experience. TrueAudio had its debut with the recent launch of the popular title Thief, and more titles will soon inevitably follow with each new one taking further advantage of this technology. This only increases my anticipation for the games of the future.
Disclosure: The author is long AMD. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.