Owners of AirPods Pro got a pleasant surprise when they upgraded to iOS 14. A feature called Spatial Audio brings a surround-sound experience when you listen to supported content, many of which is on Apple TV+.
3D sound, also known as binaural audio, isn’t new technology. It’s a method of recording that uses two microphones to mimic what your ears naturally hear. I’ve used an app that makes use of this called Naturespace. It works on any headphones to place you in an immersive soundscape.
But spatial audio is different because it uses the accelerometers in AirPods Pro that tracks your head and its position in space. When I watched the nature documentary “Tiny World” on Apple TV+, I noticed something different. I kept turning my head back and forth in amazement because that was my first experience with this feature.
When I looked left, the sound was coming from the right AirPod, and when I looked right it was coming out of the left AirPod. But the “center” of the surround sound sphere was centered on my iPad Pro, not on my head. When I walked across the room the audio remained centered on the iPad even though it didn’t fade with distance.
Em Lazer-Walker explained that spatial audio lets audio engineers “place” sounds in 3D space. It’s more than turning your head to change between left and right, it’s “Maybe there’s a leaf rustling in front of you, a bit to the left, and a meter below your head.”
This is where Apple excels. By controlling hardware, software, and services like Apple TV+, they can deliver a precise experience that makes customers like me say, “Wow!” So far I haven’t watched a lot of Apple TV+ content, but it’s the wow factor that will keep me a subscriber. I’m also a believer that it will play an important role in Apple’s AR strategy.