A beam tracing approach to acoustic modeling for interactive virtual environments

Thomas Funkhouser, Ingrid Carlbom, Gary Elko, Gopal Pingali, Mohan Sondhi, Jim West

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Virtual environment research has focused on interactive image generation and has largely ignored acoustic modeling for spatialization of sound. Yet, realistic auditory cues can complement and enhance visual cues to aid navigation, comprehension, and sense of presence in virtual environments. A primary challenge in acoustic modeling is computation of reverberation paths from sound sources fast enough for real-time auralization. We have developed a system that uses precomputed spatial subdivision and "beam tree" dat astruc tures to enable real-time acoustic modeling and auralization in interactive virtual environments. The spatial subdivision is a partition of 3D space into convex polyhedral regions (cells) represented as a cell adjacency graph. A beam tracing algorithm recursively traces pyramidal beams through the spatial subdivision to construct a beam tree data structure representing the regions of space reachable by each potential sequence of transmission and specular reflection events at cell boundaries. From these precomputed data structures, we can generate high-order specular reflection and transmission paths at interactive rates to spatialize fixed sound sources in real-time as the user moves through a virtual environment. Unlike previous acoustic modeling work, our beam tracing method: 1) supports evaluation of reverberation paths at interactive rates, 2) scales to compute high-order reflections and large environments, and 3) extends naturally to compute paths of diffraction and diffuse reflection efficiently. We are using this system to develop interactive applications in which a user experiences a virtual environment immersively via simultaneous auralization and visualization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 1998
Event25th Annual Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, SIGGRAPH 1998 - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: Jul 19 1998Jul 24 1998


Other25th Annual Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, SIGGRAPH 1998
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOrlando, FL

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software


  • Acoustic modeling
  • Auralization
  • Beam tracing
  • Spatialized sound
  • Virtual environment systems
  • Virtual reality


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