The power of binaural sound for immersive storytelling at museums

Notes on Blindness should convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt of the immersive power of binaural sound. (…).Many uses of binaural sound have yet to be discovered. Therefore, don’t hesitate to assess its relevance for your next project!

With the increase of virtual reality (VR) experiences the importance of sound for creating a natural appearance becomes more and more evident. A three dimensional visual surrounding will remain flat as long as the acoustic perception doesn’t reflect the spatial environment. 

The solution comes with binaural sound, also known as 3D audio. The technology faithfully reproduces our natural listening mode to be able to locate sound in space. It’s no longer just left or right as with stereo; now it’s also from far away or near by. And the sound perception changes as the listener turns his or her head.

One of the major virtual reality masterpieces lately was “Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness” – a co-production by Agat Films / Ex Nihilo / Archer’s Mark / Audiogaming and ARTE (@arte). It is based on tapes with more than 30 hours of audio by the American theologian John Hull, in which he documented his gradual loss of sight at the beginning of the 1980s.

As John Hull describes, how his ears first support and finally take over the exploration of the space around him, the VR masterpiece makes us “see” the environment in the same way. 

The emotional power of this experience has been an “eye-opener” to me in many respects. Beside others it got me thinking of how to use binaural sound best to achieve our main goal at Antenna International (@antennaIntl), which is enhancing the visitor experience at museums and cultural sites through mobile interpretation. I could describe in lengths how we do that exactly, but in short it’s by helping the visitor to “see what they can’t see”. Our visitor’s “blindness” though is not a physical one, but caused by a lack of information, orientation and/or connection. Great storytelling can overcome all of those obstacles. And if the sound is right it’s becoming a tremendous immersive experience.

Therefore we very shortly will be introducing experimental 3D audio-productions at three iconic museums and cultural sites cross Europe: a cathedral, an opera house and an art museum. Each of these sites will see a different approach: one will invite family groups to dive deep into the adventures of its forest-like architecture, another one will allow their spectators to take part in a production as it is performed at the very same moment in front of them, and the last one will lift the borders of a canvas inviting people to enter the depicted scenes by becoming part of it.

All of them though, will, by using binaural sound, once again prove the old saying of the East African Maasai tribe:

“It’s the ear that leads through the darkness, not the eye”

More to be shared soon. Stay tuned!

About Us

We are innovative storymakers and creative technologists devoted to visitor-first experiences.

We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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