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The Real Reason The PS5 Wants Your Ears

PlayStation 5 system architect Mark Cerny broke his silence on some highly anticipated PS5 specs on March 18. Among those details were some impressive expandable storage capabilities, features of the PS5 GPU, and a weirdly detailed look into the audio system.

The presentation lasted roughly an hour while Cerny busted out his tech lingo. For those who understood the terms being thrown around, it's clear Sony is really upping its game with this new console. The PlayStation 5 is pushing the limits of technology to create a hyper-realistic gaming experience on multiple fronts. Not only will gamers see the best in visual graphics and mechanical capabilities, but the audio system will run at peak performance to deliver a whole new way of gaming. All of these things combined means gamers can expect great things from the new console.

While this is all well and good, you may be asking yourself where ears come into play. The answer is more bizarre and slightly unsettling in delivery than you may have expected when sitting down to watch a tech conference.

The audio breakdown

The PlayStation 5 will utilize the Tempest Engine for 3D audio to ensure gamers receive the best sound quality possible. This audio system is so advanced that players will actually need to calibrate it to their own head-related transfer function (HRTF). The term indicates the way in which your ears pick up and interpret sound, which means each person's HRTF is very different, and won't be the same as your friends.

Because of the advanced Tempest Engine, the PS5 development team has taken steps to properly calibrate the machine. As Cerny explained, it simply isn't possible to perfectly calibrate each PS5 console to each and every gamer who purchases it, but there are still workarounds to get the audio as close to perfect as possible. Some of these workarounds are more conventional than others.

In his presentation, Cerny stated, "at PlayStation 5 launch, we'll be offering a choice of 5 HRTFs. There's a simple test where you pick the one that gives you the best locality." This test is supposed to help calibrate your PS5 system to your personal HRTF. Much like the brightness adjustments found at the beginning of many games, this will allow for a more personalized gameplay experience. The test isn't perfect or foolproof and won't have the capability to give each player perfect audio, but it's certainly offering audio that is leaps and bounds ahead of anything you've seen before.

Gamers, lend me your ears

The explanation of the Tempest Engine wasn't all cut and dry, as the presentation took a bit of a bizarre turn. Because of just how customizable the audio is, Cerny made some interesting suggestions on ways Sony could further adjust the system's HRTF to each player.

"Maybe you'll be sending us a photo of your ear, and we'll choose a neural network to pick the closest HRTF in our library. Maybe you'll be sending us a video of your ears and your head and we'll make a 3D model of them and synthesize the HRTF. Maybe you'll play an audio game to tune your HRTF. We'll be subtly changing it as you play."

While this level of customization is exciting, the prospect of sending a picture or video of your ears to Sony is beyond bizarre. What's more bizarre is imagining Sony stockpiling thousands of pictures of ears in their database for future use. It doesn't help matters that Cerny's tone while explaining these possible future measures was somewhat less than comforting. 

The odd notion that you could possibly be entering a new era of gaming that requires you to make 3D models of your body parts for the best experience is something most of gamers weren't prepared for when they sat down to watch a presentation on PS5 specs.

Promising news from Sony

Even with the unsettling idea of sending a picture of your ears to a corporation looming in your minds, the specs presented at the meeting were something to be excited about. Sony has been very quiet regarding the PS5 for a long time, forcing gamers to look for leaks and mostly false information about what can be expected. Having some confirmation that the company is moving things in the right direction with the launch of its new console is good news for everyone.

Cerny closed the meeting by stating, "ultimately, we're committing to enabling everyone to experience that next level of realism." With Sony's commitment to creating a new and better product and its desire for an open forum with developers and gamers alike, it sounds like the PlayStation 5 will, in fact, live up to the hype.