For the first time in the world, Sony Corporation (hereafter “Sony”) has created real-time live distribution technology with full object-based spatial sound1. Additionally, Sony has expanded the range of support for its “360 Reality Audio”, a music experience that allows users to immerse themselves in a three-dimensional sound field.
While livestreaming is valued for its ease of use and lack of restrictions on location and movement, achieving a sense of realism has been a challenge. Sony has evolved its proprietary 360 Spatial Sound technology, enabling real-time distribution of three-dimensional sound and video with “360 Reality Audio”, so users can experience the reality of enjoying a live performance or concert at the same time without being there.
The first live event that will be distributed in real time with “360 Reality Audio” is the online event “40 Dai-Wa-Iroiro♫” by the artist Hikaru Utada, scheduled to be held around the world on January 19, 20232. This event will be free for the first 10,000 attendees3.
1 As of December 22, 2022, according to Sony research.
2 This event is presented by U3MUSIC / EPIC Records Japan. Please check the event’s website for the countries and regions it will be distributed in.
3 This event will also be streamed with normal 2-channel sound without limiting the number of people.
Encoder development for real-time distribution of “360 Reality Audio” for artists and sound engineers
360 Reality Audio has improved the production environment and developed a real-time encoder that provides both real-time performance and sound quality for artists and sound engineers. In order to create a spatial music experience, sound engineers first assign position information to each sound source such as vocals, guitars, and drums, and arrange them in a spherical space. Sony has developed a new “360 Reality Audio” production tool for real-time distribution to improve the production environment for sound engineers. With this tool, engineers can place sound sources freely and instantly, and create sound with a three-dimensional effect as intended.
In addition, in order to send music to the server and deliver it to users, there is a process to compress the audio data including location information once, but it takes a certain amount of processing time to maintain high sound quality. Sony has developed its own sound quality processing algorithm to achieve real-time performance, which is important for live distribution. Furthermore, by taking advantage of the fact that “360 Reality Audio” is an object-based spatial audio technology, the amount of information (bit rate) given to each sound source (object) is automatically optimized, without reducing the auditory quality. It enables real-time distribution synchronized with video by compressing audio data for a short period of time.
Application development for real-time distribution of “360 Reality Audio” for viewers
Sony jointly developed “360 Reality Audio Live” with US software company Streamsoft Inc., an application4 that allows users to enjoy real-time distribution of “360 Reality Audio”. Users can enjoy the new live entertainment with this application and their own headphones5.
In addition, this application is equipped with a real-time chat function, which allows real-time communication between artists and viewers, and between viewers, realizing a sense of unity online as if they were participating at the venue.
4 Available on mobile devices such as Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.
5 Can be enjoyed in combination with headphones from all manufacturers. If using 360 Reality Audio-certified headphones provided by Sony or Audio-Technica, users can experience a more realistic experience by using the personal optimization function of the dedicated apps.
“360 Reality Audio” real-time distribution of Hikaru Utada’s online event “40 Dai-Wa-Iroiro♫”
The event will be distributed around the world from 21:00 Japan time on Thursday, January 19, 2023, when Hikaru Utada turns 40. Attendees need the application “360 Reality Audio Live” and headphones to participate.
What is “360 Reality Audio”?
360 Reality Audio uses Sony’s object-based spatial sound technology to provide an immersive music experience that feels just like being at a live concert. 360 Reality Audio makes it possible for artists and music creators to create a 360-degree musical experience by mapping sound sources such as vocals, chorus and instruments with positional information to suit their creative and artistic purpose. When listeners play back the resulting content, they can enjoy a music experience that immerses them in sound from every direction as intended by the content creator.