When planning a VR project, sound is very often becomes an after thought but that should not be the case. Really focusing on the sound in your VR can make the difference between a good experience and a great one.
JENN LASH: Hi, I’m Jenn Lash. I’m the Associate Director of User Experience at JUICE Pharma. I’m here to answer the question why is sound so important to VR?
Why is sound important to VR? There are a couple of good reasons. First, it allows you to really understand where you are in a story. You go from being a witness to a participant, which is must more engaging to a user. Also, it allows you to really define for the user where they should be focusing on a story. When you have 360 degrees of story going on around you, how does the user know what they should be looking at next?
Sound plays an important role in that and it is often overlooked in VR experiences. Most VR experiences that fall flat, it is because they were not able to do surround sound.
Here at South by Southwest, sound in VR has become a huge part of the conversation. In the past, it’s been widely ignored and very flat, and it has really, really weakened the amount of impact it has been able to have on the empathy of people who are watching or experiencing. But when the most recent VR experiences have come out, they have focused a lot on sound and that has made a huge difference on how it is really impacting the users.
My best use case of sound here at South by Southwest doesn’t actually come from a VR experience. It comes from a panel I went to where they asked us to closer our eyes and then each one of the members of the panel became an emergency rescue person. They were on different microphones and we heard them from different directions and at different distances. And they took us through the experience of a young litt–a young boy being shot and eventually passing away.
Now, what really struck me was that I was never looking at anything and yet I felt so immersed in the situation, and my empathy was so high, I was taken aback by the experience and even had to, at some points, open my eyes to try to take myself out of it. If it can do that with no visuals, imagine what it can do when you add that to a VR experience.