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Virtual Audio Spaces

Ubisense Case study

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Audio guides are a common way to provide museum visitors with an opportunity for personalised, self-paced information retrieval.
The goal was to create an interactive audio experience in the Coronation Hall located in the city hall of Aachen, Germany. Coronation Hall is rich of history and has witnessed important events of former times. Some of these events did not leave visual traces of their existence. To convey an impression of these events, a Virtual Audio Space is created with use of Apple iPhone and Ubisense and OpenAL.
The audio space is an acoustic simulation of a coronation feast containing several virtual sound sources, corresponding to the historic characters. The sounds are distributed in the whole coronation hall and rendered on a mobile device which is handed out to visitors. The rendering process incorporates the position and orientation of the listener as well as the position of the virtual sound sources to emulate a natural sound propagation. The visitors experience this continuous virtual audio space only by moving in the coronation hall. As there is no visual representations of the sound sources, the visitors explore the virtual scene solely by listening and following the audio cues of the sound source.

OverviewThe Coronation Hall is rich of history, which is not visible. Since the coronation hall is still frequently in use, it is not possible to set up permanent installations in the hall. To uncover the hidden history and convey it to a broad public, the idea came up to create a completely virtual audio space which augments the coronation hall with an additional layer of information.

The visitors wear headphones as well as a Ubisense tag and experience an impression, e.g., of someone standing a few meters away and singing. The visitor explores this virtual audio space by moving in the physical world. The more distant the sound is, the more the audio stream fades from clear speech to murmur.

Preliminary tests showed very high accuracy and elaborate tuning was required for the system. Ubisense was used for location tracking in this very tough and special environment condition.

Positive Effects

  • Improves event quality
  • Stimulating influence on visitors communication with each other
  • Virtual reality of site history
  • System can be adapted to a lot of different usage scenarios e.g. zoos, museums etc.

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