Michael Abrash, chief scientist of Oculus, wowed the crowd during his Keynote Address at the 139th AES Convention in New York, providing an in-depth discussion on how surround sound and virtual reality will interact in the near future.NEW YORK, NY—At the Opening Ceremonies of this year’s AES Convention, held October 29-November 1 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, the standing roomonly crowd was treated to a look back as the Audio Engineering Society honored the achievements of its members and industry pioneers. But those in attendance also received a considerable look ahead, as Keynote Speaker Michael Abrash, chief scientist of Oculus, the company behind the upcoming Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, discussed the implications of Virtual Reality for pro audio.
“The timing of giving this keynote couldn’t be better because virtual reality is right on the cusp of taking off,” he said. “Great consumer VR will be readily available next year, and audio is going to be a key part of its success. At the same time, VR is going to open up new areas of audio research and engineering. It’s already giving new importance to previously esoteric areas.... While most people think about VR about being about visual use of a headset, I can’t think of anything that could be more exciting for the future of audio than virtual reality.
“VR’s unique power is the ability to do something no other medium has done—drive our perceptual systems, creating experiences that feel real. It may not be obvious as to why VR is so different from television or IMAX or computer games, but it is, in fact, something fundamentally new, rather than just more of the same.”
The Keynote found Abrash using references as varied as YouTube videos highlighting the McGurk Effect—a perceptual trick underlining the connection between vision and hearing by pairing the audio of one spoken word with the visual of another word being spoken—and Morpheus’ speech about the nature of reality in the sci-fi classic, The Matrix. Ultimately, he explained how the senses are used to reconstruct reality within our brains, as he focused on hearing and the complex challenges that audio still faces in virtual reality realms—issues that he expects to be cleared up within 20 years.
Abrash wasn’t the only highlight of the ceremony, however. Kicking things off, the Audio Engineering Society honored this year’s AES Award winners, highlighted by Bob Ludwig, who was awarded the Gold Medal Award, an annual award given in recognition of outstanding achievements, sustained over a period of years, in the field of Audio Engineering.
The Fellowship Award was presented to four members who had rendered conspicuous service, made valuable contributions to the advancement in, or dissemination of, knowledge of audio engineering; winners included William F. Hanley, Jr., David Moulton, Agnieszka Roginska and Ulrike K. Schwarz.
Legendary mastering engineer Bob Ludwig (left) received the Gold Medal Award from outgoing president Andres Mayo at this year’s AES Convention Opening Ceremonies. A trio of Citation Awards were given in recognition of services or accomplishments that did not fit into any of the other categories; recipients included Linda Gedemer, Cesar Lamschtein and Howard Sherman.
The Board of Governors Award was presented to no less than eight individuals for outstanding contributions to the AES. They included Michael Kelly, Bozena Kostek, Peter Mapp, Valeria Palomino, Jeff M. Smith, Jorge Urbano, Wieslaw Woszczyk and Umberto Zanghieri.
AES Journal editor-in-chief Bozena Kostek presented the winners of this year’s AES Paper Awards. Niels Elkjær Iversen, Arnold Knott and Michael A. E. Andersen of the Technical University of Denmark were awarded the Convention Student Paper Award, while Bjørn Kolbrek of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology received the Best Peer-Reviewed Paper Award