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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 09:43 GMT
3D sound goes beyond stereo
Technology to be used in the Xbox, AFP
Technology to be used in the Xbox
Advanced 3D audio technology that brings the sounds of video games to life has won a prestigious UK award for innovation in engineering.

The technology, developed by British company Sensaura, creates an illusion of 360 degree sound from just two conventional speakers.


It is enormously satisfying to apply creative thought to little-known fundamental scientific processes, and see a successful commercial product emerge

Dr Alastair Sibbald, Sensaura chief scientist
"Sensaura technology is an excellent example of software's enormous role in contemporary engineering, which is so often misinterpreted as being solely about manufactured products and impressive structures," said Sir John Cullen, chairman of the MacRobert Award judging panel.

"The Sensaura team richly deserve the MacRobert Award. Their in-depth research and development has produced truly astonishing results, demonstrated by their success in the global market," he said.

The company's technology is used on more than 55 million computers across the world. It has been built into Microsoft's forthcoming games console, the Xbox, and is also available as a software package for the Playstation 2.

The company is now looking to develop it for use on mobile phones and handheld computers.

10 years of work

Sensaura 3D Positional Audio is the result of more than 10 years of research and development.

The company originally developed the technology to try to catch the atmosphere of a concert hall in classical music recordings.

A set of algorithms based on the physics of spatial hearing is used to mimic the acoustic processes that are involved and simulate the effect of hearing any particular sound at a chosen position in three-dimensional space around the listener.

"It is enormously satisfying to apply creative thought to little-known fundamental scientific processes and see a successful commercial product emerge," said chief scientist, Dr Alastair Sibbald.

The Royal Academy of Engineering honours the UK's most distinguished engineers.

The MacRobert Award is to be presented to Sensaura by the Duke of Edinburgh at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 14 November.

Also up for the prize were a new type of thrust reverser and a novel separator for sewage treatment.

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