Sound is an important part of any immersive experience. It's hard to get lost in a song, movie, or game with low-quality audio that doesn't quite fit with the production's other aspects. This is especially true for augmented reality, which is why Magic Leap partnered up with Sennheiser earlier this year, and this week announced the first product borne from that partnership in the Sennheiser AMBEO AR One in-ear headphones.
After significant investments from Google and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, among others, Magic Leap released the Magic Leap One Creator Edition headset in August. The headset comes with its own speakers but also includes a 3.5mm jack with built-in audio specialization processing for people looking for even more immersive sound. That's where the AMBEO AR One headphones come in.
According to Sennheiser, the AMBEO AR One is "fully equipped to complement the mixed reality glasses from Magic Leap." That complementary relationship is built on several core features: a Transparent Hearing mode that allows sound from the real world to pass through the headphones, Comply ear tips designed to prevent sounds from leaking out the headphones and compatibility with the AMBEO Augmented Audio Lab app.
All of these features reflect the differences between AR and VR. Most VR experiences can safely assume people don't want the real world to ruin their immersion. AR experiences, on the other hand, are supposed to complement the real world. That means headphones incapable of letting in outside sounds might actually hinder the experience rather than enhance it. Letting in too much noise, however, would lead to the same problem.
Meanwhile, the AMBEO Augmented Audio Lab app shows that Magic Leap, Sennheiser and outside developers are still figuring out how audio should work in AR. The app was co-developed by Magic Leap and Sennheiser and is available via Magic Leap's Experiences store.
Here's what Sennheiser had to say about the app: "The AMBEO Augmented Audio Lab is an immersive playground for exploring the new possibilities of augmented audio. In the lab you can see, create, capture, shape and even throw sounds as if they were physical objects. Record sounds from the real world into loops, or combine them with a variety of included sounds to transform your environment into an interactive audiovisual soundscape."
The AMBEO AR One headphones will be available from Magic Leap in November for $250.