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Samsung and Google have developed a Dolby Atmos alternative

28 Nov 2023 | Rasmus Larsen |

Samsung may have finally adopted Dolby Atmos in its 2022-2023 TV models, but on the sidelines the South Korean company has collaborated with Google to develop an alternative.

The new audio technology is known as Immersive Audio Model and Formats (IAMF), and Samsung is now publicly sharing details on the work that began in 2020.

- "Samsung Electronics' advanced research institute Samsung Research has been striving to popularize 3D audio since 2020. To this end, Samsung worked with Google to jointly develop Immersive Audio Model and Formats (IAMF)," said Samsung.

Open-source 3D audio

Spatial audio – or 3D audio – is not new technology, and it is already widely deployed in the form of the object-based audio format Dolby Atmos and to some extent DTS:X. TVs, soundbars, receivers and headphones with support for Atmos and DTS:X have been available for years. However, Samsung points out that IAMF is the first open-source spatial audio technology. It was adopted by the Alliance for Open Media (AOM) in October 2023 – the same alliance that is behind the AV1 video format. Both Google and Samsung are members of AOM. Samsung explained that IAMF has 3 core features: 1. Vertical sound 2. AI scene analysis 3. User-customized audio

IAMF audio

The concept of IAMF's user-customized audio. Photo: Samsung Research

- "As such, when IAMF technology is applied to home TV speakers and sound bars, it allows listeners to hear sounds such as birds flying over their head on their TVs at home," said WooHyun Nam from Samsung Research’s Visual Technology Team, and added: - "In order to allow people to freely create content with 3D audio technology, related technology needs to be open to all. Providing a complete open-source framework for 3D audio, from creation to delivery and playback, will allow for even more diverse audio content experiences in the future."

Ideal partners

Samsung produces TVs, soundbars, headphones, and other types of consumer devices, while Google develops platforms such as mobile Android and Google TV. Samsung has so far refrained from using Android TV or Google TV in its TVs, but the company still sees Google as an ideal partner to develop the new audio technology. - "Samsung and Google’s respective expertise in devices and content made the companies ideal partners to create IAMF technology," said JeongHoon Park, EVP and Head of Visual Technology, Samsung Research. "By coming together to develop this unprecedented technology, we are paving the way for consumers to enjoy 3D audio in their homes."

A united front against Dolby

This is not the first time we hear about Google and Samsung's collaboration in the area of audio and video. In 2022, details leaked on "Project Caviar", an effort by the two companies to push royalty-free alternatives to Dolby Vision and Atmos. On the video side, it involves HDR10+, while IAMF appears to be the audio technology under Project Caviar. Still, Samsung and Google appear to have hit some roadblocks in their efforts. Samsung still does not support Dolby Vision in any of its TVs, but it implemented support for Dolby Atmos for the first time in TVs with its 2022 models. Perhaps we will hear more about IAMF at CES 2024 in January – hopefully under a better name.

Immersive Audio Model and Formats (IAMF)

In Samsung's own words: 1. Ability To Express Sound Vertically Previous open-source audio codecs only supported horizontal sound expression. With IAMF technology, audio can now be expressed vertically so that sound is increasingly multi-directional. 2. AI-Based Scene Analysis and 3D Audio Effects IAMF utilizes AI and deep-learning technology to analyze scenes and emphasize certain aspects of the content — adjusting audio levels for more enhanced sound throughout the viewing experience. In addition, IAMF technology provides optimal sound despite changes in the device environment. 3. Highly Customized Audio Users will be able to freely adjust sound according to their preferences with IAMF technology. Whether viewers are looking to amplify sound effects from an action scene or enhance dialogue, IAMF gives them the flexibility to customize content audio for a more personalized experience.

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