Online audio experiences are having their moment — and they’re only going to keep getting more popular.
(After all, voice-only communication actually makes it easier for listeners to comprehend emotion... but more on that later.)
For years, many digital experiences have been audiovisual in nature: Video games, virtual reality, movies, YouTube, virtual meetings, etc. And of course, these are all still popular (playing games online especially). But even playing games now relies on real-time communication in audio with your friends (Discord, anyone?).
Now, though, audio has come to the forefront. It’s everywhere, and for good reason. There’s clear research that shows interactions sans video lessen Zoom fatigue, and that audio-only communications have “higher synchrony” (this term refers to how successful people are in synchronizing their vocal cues and speaking turns). It was found that using video actually creates greater speaking turn inequality. And do you know what helps improve team productivity and connection? When there is equality in conversational turn-taking, and everyone on the team speaks roughly the same amount of time.
That being said, where can you find great virtual audio experiences? (Certainly not your Zoom meetings…)
Explore These 3 Digital Audio Experiences
As mentioned above, voice-only communication has been found to make it easier for listeners to comprehend emotion. “Think about all of the information listeners receive when it’s not voice-only — facial expressions, body language… listeners must focus on much more.”
It makes sense then that many of these digital audio experiences are focused on forging connections with people, and simply sharing details of our lives with each other… verbally, from a physical distance (something that has unfortunately been quite necessary for a while now due to COVID-19).
And what helps people communicate and bond? Being able to have a natural conversation together, not plagued by awkwardly waiting for the other to talk while audio cuts in and out. In other words: Crystal clear, spatial audio that sounds like you’re in real life next to your friend or colleague instead of hundreds (if not thousands!) miles apart.
All three of these digital audio experiences are beginning to incorporate immersive audio...
Find your pair of headphones and listen to Douglas Rushkoff’s recent podcast episode of Team Human using High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio. In even just the first one minute of the podcast, where you can immediately hear the difference — it’s as though Douglas is circling around you while he introduces the episode.
The conversation between Rushkoff, R. U. Sirius, Nick Philip, Annie P.O, and Jody Radzik flows naturally as they reflect on the “magical explosion at the intersection of art and technology in the early-1990s rave scene.”
This is the power of spatial audio: It makes this podcast sound like a conversation friends had in real life, not one recorded far apart from each other.
If you want to do the same, this is possible now. Check out instructions here. Another quick tip: Invest in a good headset and/or microphone for recording your podcast! Here’s a list of both budget-friendly and high quality options. These suggestions also apply to the next two forms of digital audio experiences, too.
2. Social Audio
Perhaps one of the most popular forms of audio these days, social audio has certainly made an impression on the online world.
“The social audio space is bigger than just Clubhouse,” Phoebe Bain writes. Not only are all of the bigger tech companies developing and releasing audio features (many of them all in the last few months! Check out this post for a quick round up of the most popular social audio apps now), but other smaller social audio apps are available, too. Jeremiah Owyang has a great list of them here, as well as a detailed forecast of the market.
Those blog posts both pose the question: What will set apart these various social audio platforms?
Remember the importance of natural conversation — in real life, people talk over each at times, and because the feedback is immediate, are able to adjust accordingly. Here’s the thing: You need spatial audio to make this happen, and if the audio is mono (as is most VOIP solutions), you won’t be able to understand each other and make those natural adjustments virtually. No one comes across as well without spatial audio. It’s a game changer for social audio, videoconferencing solutions, and more.
3. Shortform Audio
Arguably the newest form of digital audio experience, shortform audio is on the rise now, too.
“The content economy is carving out a new market: the creation of bite-size audio recordings or micro-podcasts that run anywhere from 90 seconds to a few minutes. Shortform audio is easier to share, cheaper to make and less time-consuming. It’s the kind of on-the-go content people are seeking, and the social giants are taking notice. Facebook earlier this year started experimenting with Soundbites, its short-form audio feature, and Twitter has also been testing a feature for voice tweets up to 140 seconds,” writes Antoinette Su.
In this bite-size format of audio, the focus is still on creating connection and community… sharing with others. For example, the social micro podcasting app Beams has one user review stating: “Other platforms have started to feel like an ego death match where it’s all about numbers, but here it’s all about stories.”
Spatial Audio Improves Online Audio Experiences
In all three cases, having immersive audio helps simulate an environment that feels like people are actually together. To learn more about how exactly spatial audio works and the research behind it, check out this post.
“Audio is regaining its crown after 100 years. But, with so many hours in the day, people are getting screened out. That’s why audio is coming back with a vengeance. Unlike video, people can consume audio while living their lives. Besides, freeing us from screens sparks our imagination. We can paint our own pictures of the audio, immersing our other senses,” writes Amir Hirsh, rather poetically.
Creating a social audio app, platform, or recording audio yourself for podcasts? If you’re looking to level up your digital audio experience, experiment with implementing spatial audio. It’s easy now with High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio API, and free to get started. Create your account below, and let us know how it goes.