A while back, Valve acquired Impulsonic, a peculiar move for a company that doesn't delve into sound all that much. However, now we know why as today ‘Steam Audio' was announced, which is intended to usher in a new generation of spatial audio.
Steam Audio has been in development for years now and is backed by tons of research into how sound interacts with environments. Steam Audio aims to give developers the tools to create realistic audio for all games but this will be a huge benefit to virtual reality in particular.
To give a rough idea of what the Steam Audio SDK does, Valve put up a short demo but there are a ton of additional examples on Valve's Steam page. The SDK is free for developers to use with no royalties required, similarly to how Valve handles its other technologies.
Right now, the Steam Audio SDK has planned support for both Unity and Unreal engine but more will be added over time. Since the SDK is still in beta, Steam Audio already plays nicely with Unity but Unreal support will be coming a little later. Speaking about the announcement, Unity head of VR, Tony Parisi said that adding Steam Audio to Unity gives developers “an easy solution for extending the acoustic depths” of their VR creations.
KitGuru Says: Valve has been working hard on creating tools for developers to utilise when it comes to VR. Steam Audio will support Widows, Linux, MacOS, Android and any VR headset so it could end up becoming a fairly widespread piece of tech, especially given its free to use nature.