Audio cues can sometimes be crucial for success in games. Developers frequently design the sound environment for their experiences to be not only rich and immersive, but to also contain hints about approaching enemies or danger. Players who are hard of hearing can miss out on this, and it’s not fair for them to be disadvantaged due to a disability. A product called Audio Radar launched at CES 2024 and it can help turn sound signals into visual cues, so that gamers with hearing loss can “see the sound,” according to the company AirDrop Gaming LLC.
The setup is fairly simple. A box plugs into a gaming console to interpret audio output and converts that data into lights. A series of RGB light bars surround the screen, and display different colors depending on the type of sound coming from the respective direction they represent. Put simply, it means that if you’re walking around a Minecraft world, like I did at the company’s booth on the show floor, you’ll see lights of different colors appear on the different bars.
Red lights mean sounds from enemies are in the area adjacent to the corresponding light, while green is for neutral sounds. An onscreen legend also explains what the sounds mean, though that might just be for the modded Minecraft scenario on display at CES.
I walked around the scene briefly, and could see green lights hovering above a pen of farm animals, while purple lights fluttered in tandem with a dragon flying overhead. I did find it a little confusing, but that is probably due more to the fact that I know very little about Minecraft, and as someone with hearing I might not appreciate the added information as much as someone without.
With an SDK that the company launched at the show, developers will be able to customize the lights and visual feedback to elements in their game so that they have control over what their hard-of-hearing gamers see. In the meantime, Audio Radar is using its own software to detect stereo or surround sound signals to convert to feedback in lights and colors.
Though the product may seem in its early stages, various major gaming companies have appeared to indicate interest in Audio Radar. AirDrop Gaming’s CEO Tim Murphy told me that Logitech is “providing support as we further develop our product and design our go-to-market strategy.” Also, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was spotted at the booth on opening day.
Audio Radar is beginning to ship on a wider level this year, and the company continues to develop products for gamers who are deaf and hard of hearing, among other things. The system works with Xbox, PlayStation and PC.
We’re reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/audio-radar-helps-gamers-with-hearing-loss-see-sound-effects-instead-195001226.html?src=rss