Facebook is no stranger to acquiring companies, after all the social network dropped $2 billion on Oculus and $19 billion on WhatsApp, but the latest acquisition could potentially showcase the future focus for the online giant – virtual reality. While the Oculus acquisition was the first big move into this industry, Facebook has now acquired Two Big Ears to give it a new audio tool dubbed 360 Spatial Workstation.
Two Big Ears has been working on a suite of tools that have defined how immersive audio is crafted and experienced in VR and AR both now and in the future, with Facebook now planning to release those tools under its own brand.
The mission for both Facebook and Two Big Ears is to make VR audio succeed across all devices and platforms – although it’s likely that Facebook will be eager to ensure developers get the very best out of its Oculus range of products.
While Two Big Ears has been charging users for licenses to the range of tools, Facebook is keen to get them into the hands of as many developers as possible. That’s why it has revealed that it will be winding down support for paid licenses over the next 12 months and moving to a completely free model.
Two Big Ears’ Spatial Workstation only hit the market last autumn, but since then it has made significant in-roads in the hands of many audio designers working on VR projects. The platform was designed as the ultimate tool for mixing audio that sounded realistically three-dimensional.
Forming the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation tool will be authoring tools, an encoder and rendering engine – all of which are available for free on the Facebook website. The software also features a number of plugins for popular audio workstations, meaning audio designer needn’t switch away from the workstation they know best.
Currently Facebook’s 360 Spatial Workstation is limited to Mac OS X 10.7 or greater, although Facebook has revealed that support for Microsoft’s Windows is coming in the near future.