Audio Radar helps gamers with hearing loss ‘see’ sound effects instead

Sound cues can sometimes be crucial to success in games. Developers often design audio environments not only to make the experience rich and immersive, but also to include cues to approach enemies or danger. Hard-of-hearing players can miss out on this, and it’s unfair that they should be put at a disadvantage because of their disability. A A product called Audio Radar turned on per hour CES 2024 and according to AirDrop Gaming LLC, it can help turn audio signals into visual cues so players with hearing loss can “see the sound.”

Installation is quite simple. The box connects to the game console to interpret the audio output and convert 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. Simply put, this means that if you’re walking around the world of Minecraft, you’ll see different colored lights appear on different bars, just like I did at the company’s booth on the show floor.

Red lights mean sounds from enemies are in the area adjacent to the corresponding light, while green are for neutral sounds. The on-screen legend also explains what the sounds mean, though this may only be for the modded Minecraft scenario shown at CES.

A close-up of the lower right corner of the monitor with the screen legend showing the words A close-up of the lower right corner of the monitor with the screen legend showing the words

Photo: Cherlynn Low / Engadget

I briefly walked around the scene and could see green lights hovering over a trap of farm animals and purple lights fluttering in tandem with a flying dragon at the head. I found it a little confusing, but that’s probably because I know very little about Minecraft, and as someone who’s heard, I might not appreciate it as much as someone without additional knowledge.

With the SDK, which the company unveiled at the show, developers will be able to adapt lights and visual feedback to game elements so they can control what hearing-impaired players see. Meanwhile, Audio Radar uses its own software to detect stereo or surround sound signals to translate into feedback in lights and colors.

Although the product appears to be in its early stages, various major gaming companies have expressed interest in Audio Radar. Tim Murphy, CEO of AirDrop Gaming, told me that Logitech is “supporting us as we further develop our product and map out our go-to-market strategy.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also appeared at the booth on the opening day.

Audio Radar is starting to roll out more broadly this year, and the company continues to develop products for deaf and hard-of-hearing players. The system works with Xbox, PlayStation and PC.

We’re reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas, January 6-12. Stay up to date with the latest news from the show here.

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