Johnson, Dale (2018) Towards the Perceptual Optimisation of Virtual Room Acoustics. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In virtual reality, it is important that the user feels immersed, and that both the visual and listening experiences are pleasant and plausible. Whilst it is now possible to accurately model room acoustics using available scene geometry in real time, the perceptual attributes may not always be optimal. Previous research has examined high level control methods over attributes, yet have only been applied to algorithmic reverberators and not geometric types, which can model the acoustics of a virtual scene more accurately. The present thesis investigates methods of perceptual control over apparent source width and tonal colouration in virtual room acoustics, and is an important step towards and intelligent optimisation method for dynamically improving the listening experience.

A review of the psychoacoustic mechanisms of spatial impression and tonal colouration was performed. Consideration was given to the effects early of reflections on these two attributes so that they can be exploited. Existing artificial reverb methods, mainly algorithmic, wave-based and geometric types, were reviewed. It was found that a geometric type was the most suitable, and so a virtual acoustics program that gave access to each reflection and their meta-data was developed. The program would allow for perceptual control methods to exploit the reflection meta-data.

Experiments were performed to find novel, directional regions to sort and group reflections by how they contribute to an attribute. The first was a region of in the horizontal plane, where any reflection arriving within it will produce maximum perceived apparent source width (ASW). Another discovered two regions of and unacceptable colouration in front of and behind the listener. Any reflection arriving within these will produce unacceptable colouration. Level adjustment of reflections within either region should manipulate the corresponding attributes, forming the basis of the control methods.

An investigation was performed where the methods were applied to binaural room impulse responses generated by the custom program in two different virtual rooms at three source-receiver distances. An elicitation test was performed to find out what perceptual differences the control methods caused using speech, guitar and orchestral sources. It was found that the largest differences were in ASW, loudness, distance and phasiness. Further investigation into the effectiveness of the control methods found that level adjustment of lateral reflections was fairly effective for controlling the degree of ASW without affecting tonal colouration. They also found that level adjustment of front-back reflections can affect ASW, yet had little effect on colouration. The final experiment compared both methods, and also investigated their effect on source loudness and distance. Again it was found that level adjustment in both regions had a significant effect on ASW yet little effect on phasiness. It was also found that they significantly affected loudness and distance. Analysis found that the changes in ASW may be linked to changes in loudness and distance.

FINAL THESIS - Johnson, Dale.pdf - Accepted Version
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