AMMERSIVE - A PLATFORM FOR IMMERSIVE AUDIO EXPERIENCES

Ammersive is a brand new immersive audio app that launched in August 2022 which has a variety of content aimed at transporting its listeners into a realm of endless possibilities. Sounds to escape, unwind, meditate and focus.

We’ve talked to the developers of the platform, Jamie Bell and Sam Addadahine, who provided a deep insight into their product, the story behind it, and the creation of new auditory realities with the help of our plugins.

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THE AMMERSIVE IDEA

Jamie, Sam, nice too meet you! What exactly is Ammersive? Please describe your solution and what’s special about it.

Ammersive is a 3D Immersive Audio Experience platform. Our sense of hearing is incredibly powerful and with the magic of spatial audio, we can place the listener at the heart of a variety of real and fictional situations. The possibilities are endless, we can allow you to experience what it may be like to go on an African Safari, head back in time to 1969, and sit in NASA’s control room for the Apollo 11 launch, or perhaps you’re a thrill seeker and want to know what it feels like to be buried alive?

We’re adding new sounds every week and actively encourage our listeners to suggest their own ideas for us to create. The Ammersive app is best experienced by finding a quiet and comfortable spot, placing your headphones on, and closing your eyes. This allows you to truly explore your sense of hearing and encourages your imagination to visualise your surroundings.

Podcasts, streaming networks, etc. are trending right now, however, realizing an audio platform based on spatial audio stories and experiences is unique. How did you come up with the idea of the platform, and why spatial audio?

Back in 2020, Co-Founder Sam came across a video one evening on YouTube called ‘Virtual Barber Shop’, 

Sam: I was amazed by the aural sensation it gave me, I had never heard of ‘spatial’ audio before so it felt like magic and left me wanting more. After many repeated visits to the virtual barber shop I decided to leave in search for other immersive audio experiences but to my surprise and disappointment these were very few and far between and nothing matched the immersiveness of my first discovery. 

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to build a successful mobile app but never had quite the right idea for something that could take off and rival some of the biggest apps out there today. I decided to approach my friend [Jamie] with the idea of building an immersive audio experience app, which I described as the ‘Netflix of immersive audio’. Jamie loved the idea and with his skills as a hobbyist music producer, he went searching for how he could create spatial audio experiences. Luckily for us, Jamie discovered the dearVR PRO plug-in which allowed us to place the sounds around the listener with a level of immersiveness which we felt could almost match that of the Virtual Barber Shop. It was at this point that the build of the Ammersive mobile app commenced and we then realised that we needed to find some more talented creators to help bring this idea to life.

SETTING UP THE CREATIVE TEAM

You're not building the platform alone, how did you assemble your team of sound designers and voice artists?

We knew that in order for the platform to be a success we had to find some of the best Sound Designers and Voice Artists out there. So we looked across freelance platforms and approached the most talented people we could find and held a virtual meeting with them all individually to pitch the idea. We were fortunate that everyone seemed to love the idea. Our business model means that we don’t pay our creators as a typical company would, they take a revenue share of in-app premium subscriptions. We now have 9 incredible creators who all share our passion and belief that 3D Immersive Audio Experiences will be the next big thing in audio entertainment.

We have a brilliant culture that we want to nurture and we want all of our creators to bring their best selves to the project, execute their own ideas, and ultimately love what they do. ‘Inspiring Creatives’ is one of our brand values and we want to live up to that by consistently pushing the boundaries of our craft. We will always welcome new creators if we feel they can enhance what we do and help us make Ammersive the best audio app in the market. Please do reach out to us with a sample of your work if this is something you may be interested in.  

For an appealing streaming platform, you need a lot of content. How do you approach the production of your content and how do Dear Reality's plugins come in?

It varies a lot, each sound designer may have their own approach. We work across a variety of DAW’s including Ableton, Logic Pro and Pro Tools, then we pull sounds from a variety of sources including specialized libraries and in-house field recordings. We don't use any special miking arrangements currently, but as we grow we would love to invest in additional recording equipment and Binaural Microphones. A bit of equipment we have our eyes on is the Neumann KU 100 Dummy Head Microphone, we think we would have a lot of fun with this so may get hold of one soon!

Essentially all of our sounds are about placing the listener in the centre of the atmosphere and story as it unfolds. So if we are not using binaural microphones, Dear Reality’s dearVR PRO is the magic that allows us to achieve such special immersive experiences. 

CREATIVE WORKFLOW

How exactly does your workflow look like with the Dear Reality plugins, and what do you like most about working with them?

Every creator may have their own workflow, but we typically use the Dear Reality dearVR PRO Plugin on each individual track and it can either be the first or last plug-in in the chain depending on the desired effect we want to create. From there, the Occlusion, Reverb and Reflections controls help us to dial in the exact sound we want. Another aspect that helps the dynamics and realism is moving the sound using automation. We sometimes do this by simply hitting record and moving the sound freehand in Caretesian mode, or we may do it via one of the Axis variables. It feels as though we are just getting started with dearVR PRO, but it has already become a crucial part of our workflow and we love how incredibly easy and intuitive it is to use. We couldn’t do what we are doing without it and are truly grateful for Dear Reality’s creation. Needless to say, we are very excited about what may be on their roadmap to inspire us further.

How do you use the element of spatial audio to add impact to the storyline?

Spatial audio allows us to create hyper immersive experiences for our listeners. What we love about what we’re doing, is that we can transport listeners through sound if they simply close their eyes and use the power of their own imagination. We also like the fact that each listener may be imagining their own scenario and we think that is pretty special. We’re overstimulated in today’s world with our smartphones, laptops and TV’s, so we’re pleased to offer something a little more relaxing and creative, which most importantly doesn’t require you to keep your eyes open to enjoy. 

We also use spatial audio to complement the narrative of some of our audiobook stories. We want the listener to feel the story and be amongst the characters. We truly believe spatial audio enhances the audiobook experience significantly. We strategically place sound effects and complement the narrative with music to further bring the story to life. One of our personal favourites is The Petting Zoo which has an incredible Voice Artist performance from Alistair McMillan accompanied by exceptional Sound Design from Justin Graham. We also think we have the perfect Sleep Story with our Peter Rabbit sound. We have one of our Voice Artists who has the most soothing and relaxing voice - Tim Stephenson read you a bedtime story, you hear the fire crackle as he enters the room and then Aleksander Kaczmarek adds some spellbinding sound design to the narration to give you the sense of an immersive lullaby that you’ll struggle to stay awake listening to. You’ll have to listen to believe us!

We also have a new category launching soon called ‘Dreams’, we all have dreams and they are one of the most intriguing and mystical aspects of human life. Dreams can feel incredibly immersive themselves when you are in one and they don’t always make sense. So for our new dreams category we take the listener on a journey through sound using spatial audio in highly creative ways to hopefully bring some joy, disbelief and entertainment! Hopefully the birth of a new art form.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

What challenges have you encountered and overcome during the process?

As with any creative endeavour, I’m sure all of our creators have had their own frustrations when trying to create their audio masterpieces! It can be hard when you have a vision for an audio experience but don’t quite have the right sounds at your disposal or just can’t get the mix quite right. Perhaps the most difficult aspect about creating an immersive environment with sound alone, is to generate an accurate representation of distance between the listener and the sound source. It can be useful to have some smaller less significant sound sources placed spatially different from another source to provide a spatial context for the sounds and we use both egocentric and allocentric approaches to aid spatial orientation. This really helps to enhance the element of realism. 

No matter what challenges or frustrations we face, one of our biggest strengths is our kind, supportive and talented creator community. To ensure the highest quality audio possible, we always make sure each sound gets everyone’s feedback for improvement before we launch to our listeners. Our creators also share their best practices and tips with each other - we may even create our own Ammersive Academy one day to help aspiring sound designers and voice artists. Let us know if that is of interest!

You have just started. How is the response and what kind of hyperreal immersive stories await us in the near future?

We are incredibly proud to be working on a passion project with such talented people who all genuinely love what they do. We are still at the start of our journey, having launched in August 2022 and so our main focus right now is to introduce Ammersive to as many people as possible. It’s a really competitive market out there and people have busy lives, so to get in front of them and persuade them to download our app and give us a listen is hard work. 

We also know our product is highly experiential so people need to hear it to understand the magic! However, we do truly believe that there are many people out there who will love this app once they discover it. We want to grow a community of 3D Immersive Audio Experience enthusiasts who help decide what we create next and play a key role in shaping our future. A lot of businesses talk about being customer-obsessed, but we truly want to put our listeners in the driving seat of Ammersive whilst surprising and delighting them along the way.

Ultimately though, it’s all about the quality and quantity of our content which is why we are releasing new sounds every week. We will be releasing audio to support festive and seasonal occasions and we have a long list of ideas and stories ready to bring to life on our backlog - the possibilities are endless! We also want to be a viable alternative for people who pay for meditation or mindfulness apps, so we will be growing our mediation category. We’re really pleased with some of the guided meditations we already have in the app. Listening to Constantin Nicolescu’s music with Torii Alaniz’s liquid gold voice is enough to help anyone reach enlightenment!

Then finally, we are always looking for innovation in what we do. We have recently enjoyed creating immersive documentary style audio experiences such as Andree’s Arctic Balloon expedition and we’re excited to launch other new formats and categories in the future.

Finally, can you tell us a bit more about Ammersiveland which I believe you describe as your ultimate company vision?

Yes! We felt it was really important to have a truly inspiring vision for Ammersive. We discussed whether this was to become ‘The Netflix of Immersive Audio’ or perhaps ‘The Most Popular Audio App in the World’ but neither of these gave us a deep sense of purpose or excitement that would get us through the hard times of our start-up journey. So one night we asked ourselves what our ultimate dream would be, what is the essence or Ammersive, and what does the end of the road look like when we can finally say that we have achieved our wildest dreams.

We realised that what we love most about the app we are building is the sense of magic and disbelief it can cause through immersive experience. So Ammersiveland would be a physical place, a theme park - essentially like a Disneyland for adults where we pull out all the stops to create the most incredible and amazing experiences for our guests. We would use Hollywood style set design, the latest technology, live performers as well as a variety of other experiential factors that play with all 5 of our guests senses. This would also be the home of Ammersive, where our employees and creators would have everything at their disposal to do their best work.

Is Ammersiveland a vision? A dream that will never be realised? Or an inevitable future? We don’t have the answer to this question but it’s an idea we hope inspires others to join us on our journey.

We understand you may have a little treat for our readers?

Yes.. we would love to offer all of your readers with a one month free premium subscription. They simply need to enter the promo code DEARVR - we hope you enjoy the app.

Thank you for the interview and all the best to you and your project!

Jamie and Sam
Jamie Bell and Sam Addadahine are the Founders of Ammersive. Sam discovered the popularity of 3D/8D music one night on Youtube that led to a personal exploration of immersive audio. One of the original 3D audio clips that people may remember is the Virtual Barber Shop. He was so impressed that he convinced Jamie, a fellow audio enthusiast and also a hobbyist music producer, to join him in creating the Ammersive platform.

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