PS5’s Custom “Tempest Engine” Will Deliver Next-Gen 3D Audio

"With 3D audio on PS5, the sounds you hear while playing will offer a greater sense of presence and locality," says Sony's Hideaki Nishino.

Posted By | On 18th, Mar. 2020

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Sony finally lifted the lid on the PS5’s specs earlier today, revealing the console’s full specs list, information about its SSD, expandable storage, and more. Something else that they spoke quite a lot about is the console’s audio capabilities, and how much of a step-up they’re going to be over current-gen consoles.

The PS5 will use a custom-built audio engine, called the Tempest Engine, which is a a re-engineered AMD GPU compute unit, and will enable full 3D audio. In an update on the PlayStation Blog, Sony’s Hideaki Nishino, Senior Vice President of Platform Planning & Management, talked about this briefly, saying that the Tempest Engine will deliver “a compelling audio experience for all users, not just those who own high-end speaker systems.”

“PS5 will also allow games to offer a much deeper sense of immersion through 3D audio,” wrote Nishino. “Visuals are of course imperative to the gaming experience, but we believe audio plays a crucial role as well. We wanted to deliver a compelling audio experience for all users, not just those who own high-end speaker systems. So we designed and built a custom engine for 3D audio that is equipped with the power and efficiency for ideal audio rendering. With 3D audio on PS5, the sounds you hear while playing will offer a greater sense of presence and locality. You’ll be able to hear raindrops hitting different surfaces all around you, and you can hear and precisely locate where an enemy is lurking behind you.”

The most impressive aspect of the Tempest Engine is its focus on two core factors: presence and locality. For the purposes of presence, lead systems engineer on PS5 Mark Cerny (via Digital Foundry), describes the example, of rain, saying that the Tempest Engine will generate the sound of each individual raindrop hitting surfaces.

When it comes to locality, things become a lot more complex, because that is something that varies on a person-to-person basis, depending on the shape and size of each person’s head and ears. The accuracy of the sound based on that is generated from something called the Head-related Transfer Function (or HRTF).

Impressively enough, Sony have modelled HRTFs for about a hundred people to get an idea of all the variations, and at the PS5’s launch, the Tempest Engine will feature support for 5 HRTFs, and after a configuration tool judges which of these is the best for your head and ear size based on a score, it will automatically use that to deliver the best possible audio experience.

And you should expect Sony to keep working on this and expanding their audio engine’s HRTF range.

“Maybe you’ll be sending us a photo of your ear, and we’ll use a neural network to pick the closest HRTF in our library,” said Cerny. “Maybe you’ll be sending us a video of your ears and your head, and we’ll make a 3D model of them and synthesise the HRTF. Maybe you’ll play an audio game to tune your HRTF, we’ll be subtly changing it as you play, and home in on the HRTF that gives you the highest score, meaning that it matches you the best. This is a journey we’ll all be taking together over the next few years. Ultimately, we’re committed to enabling everyone to experience that next level of realism.”

The PS5 is currently scheduled to launch this Holiday, and in spite of growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, Sony are not currently expecting any delays to that timeline. Meanwhile, it looks like the PS5 won’t have full backward compatibility support for the PS4 at launch- read more on that through here.


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