Facebook buys Scottish Two Big Ears for their magical audio tools to boost VR and 360° experience
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Two Big Ears’ 3Dception 3D Audio Engine. Photo credit: Two Big Ears / YouTube

Two Big Ears’ 3Dception 3D Audio Engine. Photo credit: Two Big Ears / YouTube

The exits are alive with the sound of VR

In yet another acquisition in Facebook’s march toward VR dominance, it was announced on Monday that the social media giant picked up virtual reality audio startup Two Big Ears.

At this time, no details have been released pertaining to the sale price for the buyout.

The Edinburgh-based company was co-founded in 2013 by CEO Abesh Thakur and VP Products Varun Nair.

In October, the company came out with their flagship product, the 3Dception Spatial Workstation, that gives designers a robust package of what the company called, “a range of tools and technologies for designing, rendering, streaming and delivering great 3D audio for real-time cinematic experiences.”

The Workstation was aimed at helping to speed up and simplify the process of bringing audio to the VR experience, a crucial step in making the technology more accessible to the masses of content creators that Facebook and others in the industry are looking to cultivate.

In light of the deal, Two Big Ears has stated that they will be offering their pipeline for cinematic VR and 360° video, including the authoring tools, encoder, and rendering engine for free.

“We’re excited to be able to continue developing great tools for a larger number of people across the world,” Thakur told readers on the company’s blog post announcing the acquisition.

In the post, Thakur clarified that they will uphold their service agreement for their Pro users for the next 12 months, hopefully allaying any concerns for paying customers that they could have been left high and dry.

Laying the groundwork for the future of content creation

Since Facebook bought Oculus back in March 2014 for $2 billion, they have steadily been picking up technologies to help them improve their delivery systems to get the content to users, as well as making it easier for users to create great content of their own. Facebook has a vested interest in bringing content creation tools to their users and partners, seeing as how user generated content is still the bread and butter of their product.

In August 2014, they bought WaveGroup Sound, which also specialize in audio post production, working mostly with video game titles like “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Dance Revolution.” Next were British Surreal Vision in May 2015 and Israeli Pebbles Interfaces in July 2015 for their computer vision and augmented reality capabilities, the latter for a price tag of $60 million. This list is likely to keep growing with no end in sight.

Over the past month or two, Facebook has been slowly building up the offerings of 360° videos available in its feed, featuring content from Game of Thrones, the New York Times, and National Geographic among others. These videos demand user engagement to explore the sweeping landscapes and scope of the scenes of the story, taking in the entirety of the experience.

This is one of my favorites.

Facebook along with other tech companies like Samsung, Microsoft, and HTC have gone full throttle on the path to embrace the possibilities of virtual and augmented realities. Coupled in with this is 360° video, which appears to be serving as a bridge technology to give users access to the new format of content while working within the existing technology on the screens they already own, all without the need to pick up new hardware like a Gear or Rift.

While the company will continue to push their VR innovations, we are likely to see a continued movement to bring more 360° video onto the platform with initiatives like Facebook 360. Creating this content is still too expensive for most of their average users to produce, owing to the cost of the professional camera rigs needed to get the full picture.

Hopefully that will change in the very near future. Samsung, as one of the leaders in the mobile VR field, is due to come out with their Samsung Gear 360, which will likely come in somewhere in the $400 range. The small camera can stitch and render video on its own without the need for external processing, sending the content directly to a connected Gear for viewing. Perhaps not a cheap toy, but if you can buy a GoPro, then this is totally doable.

As more cameras like this make it to the market, Facebook will likely increase their efforts to lower the barriers by providing more tools and making their platform even friendlier to 360° video, irrespective of their advances on the Oculus Rift project.

Reaching this goal will mean scooping up more companies that are already developing this technology, indicating that the shopping spree is far from over.

Here, you can watch (and hear) the 3Dception Spatial Workstation for yourself:

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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