UMD Team Receives Funding from Facebook Reality Labs

The award supports research to improve computational models used to simulate the human perception of auditory signals.
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Two spatial audio experts at the University of Maryland were recently awarded $270K in research funding from Facebook Reality Labs—the social media giant’s research and development division focused on virtual and augmented reality software and hardware.

Nail Gumerov, a senior research scientist in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and Ramani Duraiswami, a professor of computer science, will use the funding to better model and troubleshoot 2D and 3D audio technologies.

 Their efforts will be focused on improving mathematical models to calculate the Head Related Transfer Function (HRTF), a computational tool used to simulate the human perception of auditory signals.

These simulations are a vital component to understanding how a user perceives the location of sound while immersed in a virtual reality headset, say the researchers. The HRTF can be calculated by applying the boundary element method (BEM) on the geometry of a listener’s head and ear.

However, simulations of HRTFs are unreliable because they can contain many numerical errors depending on how they’ve been implemented. Currently, there is no systematic or rigorous way to study these errors.

 Gumerov and Duraiswami will combine their previous HRTF research with fast computational methods to solve the partial differential equations of acoustic scattering.

“We are rigorously evaluating and suggesting improvements to computational acoustic algorithms,” Duraiswami says.

The combination of these modeling and algorithmic techniques enables the computation of HRTFs in seconds, in contrast to the hours of time required by conventional techniques, say the researchers.

The UMD researchers have prior experience working on audio solutions with Facebook Reality Labs, which is the new name of Oculus, the pioneering VR startup that was bought by Facebook in 2014.

VisiSonics, a UMD-based startup founded by Duraiswami, licensed its 3D audio technology to Oculus in 2014, allowing for a truly immersive audio and visual experience.


Story by Maria Herd


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