LAS VEGAS - Today I recorded music in augmented reality and it's all thanks to Sennheiser’s Ambeo AR One headphones. Priced at $250, these tiny earbuds deliver crisp, 360-degree spatial audio. It’s the first pair of headphones to receive certification under augmented reality company Magic Leap’s “Works With Magic Leap” program.
If the Ambeo name sounds familiar to you, it's because we’ve written about Senheisser’s experimental 3D audio line before. Targeted towards developers, Ambeo products are all about 3D audio content creation, and the AR Ones are no different.
The earbuds essentially allow you to blend real-world and virtual sounds in a feature that Sennheiser calls Transparency Hearing. Using the Sennheiser Ambeo Audio Lab companion device, you can decide how much recorded real-world sound you want to integrate into the virtual audio.
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The wrap-around in-ear attachments are small, but larger than your average buds. That minor issue is immediately forgiven when you see that the majority of the exterior casing comprises an omnidirectional microphone. Before you get to the 3.5mm audio jack, the wire coalesces into a control box that powers the Transparency Hearing via a AAA battery. And, when you’re not walking between augmented worlds, the in-ears work as a solid pair of headphones. However, you can’t use those awesome microphones to make phone calls.
So what does this all look like? When I went in for my demo, I was outfitted with a pair of AR Ones. From there, I wore Magic Leap’s circular computer around my shoulder as the techiest sash ever. Finally, representatives handed me a Magic Leap, and I was ready to rock out.
After getting a quick walkthrough from a disembodied voice, I used the controller to create virtual music. All I had to do was find a point, then hit the trigger to summon an individual track. Three shots later, I had a thumping bass line, a piano and a horn section, all represented by glowing, swirling lights. Using the controller, I grabbed the bass line and threw it across the room, causing the lows to sound further away.
In order to give me a taste for content creation, Sennheiser placed several small instruments around the room for me to use. For this part of the demo, I had access to a menu with options to Create, Destroy, Grab and Record. After selecting Record, I grabbed a tambourine with my free hand and captured the sound. Next, I banged on a bongo and added that to my growing music track, made up of both virtual audio and my real-life additions. It didn’t sound all that great because I’m not a musician, but it was really cool having that level of interactivity. In the future, I’d love to hear someone with actual musical talent take a stab at it.