Google Acquires Virtual Reality Audio Technology Developed by Engineers

Posted on: 09 July 2015

Trinity College Dublin has announced that Google acquired virtual reality technology developed by engineers at the university. As part of the agreement, Google Ireland has recruited a team of four postgraduate engineers that developed the technology ‘Thrive’, a personal 3-D audio technology for virtual reality applications.

The Google acquisition of this new virtual technology is an example of how Trinity College Dublin is rejuvenating the Irish economy through research. Until now, the delivery of audio that matches the visual experience in virtual technology has been challenging, which has prevented the successful commercialization of these technologies.  Trinity engineers’ Thrive technology solves this problem, providing an overall experience that is more realistic.

Virtual reality is a media technology that will enable innovation in gaming, creative industries and in online learning, health sciences, product and environmental design. Companies such as Google are investing significantly in virtual reality and the Trinity Thrive technology and audio expertise will be used within Google’s growing activity in this area.

“The quality education that Trinity offers students, and the excellence in research and innovation it generates is critical in creating high quality jobs and contributing to Ireland’s economic recovery. Trinity is at the heart of the national push in nurturing existing talent, and turning good ideas into sustainable jobs as this Thrive acquisition demonstrates.  As a leader in higher education Trinity is delivering for Ireland,” said Dr Patrick Prendergast, President and Provost of Trinity College Dublin.

The team, led by Professor Frank Boland in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering at Trinity’s School of Engineering, has been developing the Thrive technology for a number of years. The Thrive product development was supported by funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Commercialisation Fund. The audio signal processing research underpinning Thrive has been funded through State and industry grants and Trinity financed PhD studentships. This research continues with funding from Science Foundation Ireland Investigators Programme.

 “This is a real example of fundamental research translated successfully to product. We worked on it for four years in Trinity. Once the working system was developed, it was demonstrated to Google, whose acquisition of Thrive saw the assignment of three patents and the associated software. This acquisition enables the innovative technology to be successfully commercialised – taking an idea from the lab through to the market place,” said Professor Boland.

 Funding partners,  Enterprise Ireland  and Science Foundation Ireland added:

 “This is an excellent example of how we support the translation of world class research to deliver innovative products to market; creating jobs in Ireland,“  said Gearóid Mooney Manager of Enterprise Ireland’s Research and Innovation Division.

“This demonstrates how world class research supported by Science Foundation Ireland  enables new knowledge creation, the development of next generation talent and creation of real economic impact which puts Ireland’s reputation for innovation on the world stage,” said  Professor  Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government.

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