The Power of Sound in VR

I just reread McLuhan’s observation in Understanding Media that “in the arts the particular mix of our senses in the medium employed is all-important,” and it got me thinking about @McPhersonsound ‘s TLX talk about sound design, and the discussion we’ve been having about muted audiences.

In most of the VR experiences I’ve had, sound is the only sensory information that is being delivered at close to normal fidelity. Visual information is generally stylized, and often requires a fair amount of mental interpretation. People do sometimes experience tactile sensation, but (barring haptics) that’s happening on the brain side, and not really reliably within a creator’s control. And of course, there’s no smell or taste information at all.

We tend to focus on the visual, because a) that’s what humans generally do, and b) that’s where we’re doing the most brain work, but the audio channel is really where we may have the most bandwidth to communicate to users.

Adapted from a Twitter thread