What is it, and why do we need it?

What is it?

Headtracking means knowing in which direction your head is pointing. This is done by having sensors somewhere on your head which send data to your device. Commonly this is incorporated into a pair of headphones or sometimes as a separate device affixed to your head.

Why do we need it?

In order to create immersive 3D audio scenes we need to know:

  • Where you are (your absolute position, or GPS coordinates);
  • The location of sound being played back (GPS coordinates);
  • The direction in which your head is pointing, so the sound can appear to be coming from the right direction.

Knowing whether a sound is coming from behind your head, to the left or right, or in front enables us to render that sound as appearing to be coming from the right direction. In combination with your GPS coordinates this means you can approach a sound and walk around it, turning it into a sound object. That means we can have multiple sounds coming from around you and construct a three-dimensional sound scene in physical space which you can walk through.

Where can I get it?

Currently headtracking is only available in a handful of devices.

  • The Apple Airpods Pro provide full headtracking (only on iOS)
  • The Thingy:52. This provides a DIY approach to headtracking, by repurposing an IoT device. This can be attached to a headphone headband or on a hat or other head apparel.

Our app falls back to using the device's compass, to provide simulated head tracking. As long as your device is pointing in the same direction as your head, sounds will appear roughly from the right direction, although no dispensation is paid to looking up/down or tilting your head.