WEb Audio Virtual Environment Rendering (WEAVER): Online Virtual Acoustics for Sonic Art, Digital Heritage, and Broadcast

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project Details


The aim of the WEb Audio Virtual Environment Rendering (WEAVER) project is to revisit the concept of spatial audio composition and rendering in relation to the last ten years of development in virtual acoustics and auralisation research, the enhanced functionality now offered in creative computer music software applications, and the acoustic measurements that have been gathered and disseminated via the OpenAIR project and website. In particular this project will investigate the Web Audio API as a means to deliver such interactive virtual environments using a web browser.
This project will be realised through the completion of the following three objectives:
(1) The combination of OpenAIR room impulse response acoustic measurements with web audio rendering technology to deliver online demonstrators of novel sonic art.
We will scope the Web Audio API to detail its capabilities for developing creative applications in virtual acoustics and auralisation through a review of existing third party examples. We will design and implement a framework for object-based, virtual acoustic spatial rendering and through this develop and test online sonic art demonstrators using OpenAIR content.
(2) The development of an online resource to engage new audiences with the redevelopment and heritage of York Theatre Royal's auditorium space.
We will work with our project partners York Theatre Royal to evaluate their requirements, potential audiences for this collaboration, and wider dissemination and engagement goals. This will include a review of existing acoustic and image data that has been captured from their auditorium space prior to its current refurbishment. This objective will lead to the development and testing of the online York Theatre Royal Auditorium Explorer, that will enable users to view and listen to on-stage performances from different seats within the house, to also include the performer's on-stage perspective.
(3) The development and testing of virtual acoustic rendering options for BBC online streaming and audition of audio broadcast material.
We will work with our project partners at BBC Audio Research to evaluate their existing Web Audio based functionality and test platforms, review already captured room acoustic and playback RIR data, and on this basis design and integrate enhanced virtual acoustic and playback rendering functionality into their system. Appropriate programme content will be used with test audiences to evaluate the effectiveness or preferences with these approaches.
Each objective is focused on the outcome of an online demonstration of how web audio can help to deliver impact in (1) sonic art, (2) digital heritage and (3) broadcast technology.

Layman's description

Auralisation, the audio equivalent of visualization, enables us to audition virtual acoustic environments that once existed, will exist or that are purely fictional. Auralisation is based on obtaining the acoustic room impulse response (RIR) of a space, through measurement if the building already exists, or otherwise via simulation using computational modelling. The result is a 3D acoustic rendering of any sound we wish to hear within the auralised environment. This research plays a key role in architecture, environmental noise assessment, recreating past environments in digital heritage, as well as enabling creativity in music production, broadcast and computer gaming. The WEb Audio Virtual Environment Rendering (WEAVER) project will revisit the concept of spatial audio composition and rendering in relation to the last ten years of development in auralisation and virtual acoustics research. Since this research started in 2004, the specialised audio technology required to explore spatial composition using virtual acoustics, auralisation, acoustic measurement and modelling is now commonplace in most creative computer music software applications. Acoustic RIR measurements from various sites, buildings and venues, many of significant heritage value or interest have also been gathered and disseminated over this ten-year period via the online Open Acoustic Impulse Response Library (OpenAIR: www.openairlib.net). Over this time OpenAIR has become a key resource for electronic musicians, sound designers, software and computer game developers.
Much of the functionality required to explore and audition spatial audio content and virtual acoustic environments can now, in fact, be offered via a standard web browser and mobile device - additional acoustic RIR data is still needed to auralise these virtual spaces, but the ability to use or listen to these results is now carried by millions of potential users worldwide.
WEAVER will use the Web Audio API to deliver interactive virtual acoustic environments via a web browser, and to further realise some of the creative research aims first articulated over ten years ago. In combination with the research and resources related to OpenAIR, that was also an outcome from this initial work, WEAVER will develop impact and engagement in online sonic art, digital heritage and broadcast.
WEAVER will create novel online sonic art from OpenAIR data. We will scope the Web Audio API to detail its capabilities for developing creative virtual acoustics applications informed by existing examples and current practice, and provide a route to impact through the development of new user contacts for OpenAIR content.
We will work with York Theatre Royal, a regional producing theatre based on a historic site that has hosted a working theatre since 1744, to develop a web resource to engage new audiences with the redevelopment and heritage of the theatre's auditorium space. This presents a unique opportunity to apply our virtual acoustics research in a culturally and historically significant venue during its refurbishment. We will help York Theatre Royal to tell their story and engage new audiences using our expertise in acoustic heritage, auralisation and sound design, brought together through the development of novel, interactive online content.
With BBC Audio Research we will investigate how virtual acoustic rendering informs the experience of listening to audio broadcast material. WEAVER will expand on existing BBC spatial audio rendering for broadcast to include differently rendered virtual acoustic and playback listening environments, and will make use of BBC facilities and test platforms for reaching audiences in order to gain feedback on the effectiveness and future viability of this presentation technology.
At all stages data and code developed will be disseminated by open-source/open-access means, encouraging maximum potential impact for WEAVER and the resources it creates.

Key findings

We have developed a number of key outputs in this project, along the lines of the objectives laid out in the project description. In collaboration with BBC Audio R&D we developed means of allowing third parties to access OpenAIR content and render spatial audio results within a browser for auditioning by the user over headphones. This codebase/dataset is now made available online and is open access. We worked with York Theatre Royal on an online box office application, based on a production of 'Sherlock Holmes', which involved VR capture and rendering. We developed online examples of sonic art to demonstrate these technologies and reported our findings at the AES 142 Convention, and the AHRC Common Ground Event.
Short titleWEAVER
Effective start/end date29/02/1628/12/16


  • AHRC: £75,352.00