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Valve has just released a free toolkit, which can help you add realistic spatial audio effects to your games.
“Steam Audio adds physics-based sound propagation on top of HRTF-based binaural audio, for increased immersion”, – sates the official announcement. What it actually means is that when you’re in a game environment, you’ll hear sounds bounce off surfaces, travel through space, and reverberate. Just like in a real world. This is not something super innovative. Similar solutions are used by Ubisoft and other game companies, but it’s great to know this tech is actually available for free now.
With Steam Audio, you’ll be able to achieve more natural-sounding audio effects and music for players and easily incorporate it audio into games. CPU will not be affected by the usage of Steam Audio.
The Steam Audio SDK is available free of charge, for use by teams of any size, without any royalty requirements. Steam Audio currently supports Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android. Just like Steam itself, Steam Audio is available for use with a growing list of VR devices and platforms.
What can Steam Audio do?
The simplest thing that any spatial audio technology must do is HRTF-based binaural rendering. This refers to a way of recreating how a sound is affected by a listener’s head, ears, and torso, resulting in subtle cues that allow you to pinpoint where a sound is coming from.
Steam Audio’s implementation of HRTF-based binaural rendering has a very low CPU overhead; you can handle hundreds, even thousands of sources using a single CPU core. It also minimizes the frequency coloration of audio clips, while maintaining good localization.
Steam Audio simulates how objects occlude sound sources. In addition to the typical raycast occlusion that many game engines already support, Steam Audio supports partial occlusion: if you can see part of a sound source, Steam Audio will only partly occlude the sound. Steam Audio uses your existing scene geometry to occlude sounds, so you don’t need to create special occlusion geometry just for sounds.
You can learn more about Steam Audio on the official website.