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Just like volumetric video gives perspective and depth to visual content, spatial audio offers an immersive or omnidirectional soundscape that can react and adjust to the listener’s positioning in real time. Whether implemented via sensor- equipped speaker systems or head-tracking earphones, this technology is central to creating lifelike sensory experiences in XR and the metaverse. In 2022, spatial audio platform Spatial Inc. piloted a project in partnership with custom sound engineers Made Music Studio to create site-specific sonic workplace atmospheres to boost mood and productivity as more employees returned to in-office work, and teamed with therapeutic audio service Health-Tunes to install immersive audio “wellness rooms” in hospitals to help health care workers relieve occupational anxiety. Spatial also collaborated with the National Geographic Museum on an experiential Mount Everest exhibit, which situated visitors amid 3D-oriented sounds like a whirring helicopter and the heavy breathing of a nearby climber, and with experiential art company Meow Wolf for a South by Southwest installation featuring a variety of sculptural “art islands,” each with its own unique soundscape. Immersive audio content can be captured specially for spatial transmission or retroactively remixed for immersive formats. In 2022, David Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti arranged spatial audio mixes of a selection of the late singer’s albums in partnership with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio branded format, which is available on streaming services Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon Music HD. Spatial audio will become more commonplace, especially in entertainment, hospitality, health care, and workplace training. It’ll also be a component of immersive audiovisual content in the metaverse, but in the meantime younger audiences have taken note of the format and its value—a 2022 survey from interactive streaming platform found that four out of five Gen Z consumers are willing to pay a higher price for spatial audio–compatible headphones.

Spatial audio