A company set up by two Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) graduates has been acquired by Facebook. Two Big Ears was founded by Varun Nair (Sound Design – MSc, 2012) and Abesh Thakur (Acoustics and Music Technology – MSc, 2012). The business designs immersive and interactive audio applications and tools, with a focus on mobile and emerging technologies.
The idea for Two Big Ears started during the second semester of Abesh and Varun's studies at ECA, where they created a location-based binaural game as part of a group project. The core technology was simultaneously developed by Abesh as part of his Acoustics and Music Technology - MSc project work. Upon graduation, they decided to work together to expand this work into a full binaural processing engine, that could be easily used by other developers. They were supported by Launch.ed, the University of Edinburgh’s service that supports student entrepreneurs, and were hosted by the Acoustics and Audio Group.
“We’re ready to take the next step on our journey and scale our work from within Facebook. There is so much still to explore,” the team wrote on their blog, “By joining with a company that shares our values and our vision, we will be able to scale our technology even quicker as we continue powering immersive audio experiences.”
The acquisition is part of Facebook’s exploration into the possibilities of virtual reality technology. The social network acquired Oculus, creators of a head-mounted display designed for video gaming, in 2014.
“3Dception for Games will no longer be a separate product but we will be working with the Oculus team to combine our expertise and create best in class VR audio,” their blog post continues.
As the company has grown, they’ve taken on two more Reid School of Music graduates in Toby Carpenter and Ross Taylor, who both studied on the Acoustics and Music Technology – MSc programme.
Among their work and projects since being founded, they used their 3Dception engine to create a 360 degree immersive sound experience for Björk’s song, Stonemilker, in March 2015, which was previewed at MoMA in New York.
Their blog post concludes: “Thank you to our customers, partners and investors, including board members George Elliott and Neil Heywood, the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Enterprise and everybody who has been with us on this amazing journey.”
"The success of Two Big Ears is remarkable. Its origins lie in the unique, multidisciplinary environment at the University of Edinburgh, where core technology driven by a scientific approach interfaces with dynamic creativity,” said Dr Michael Newton, Programme Director of the Acoustics and Music Technology - MSc programme, “The result here has been the application of well-known concepts in auditory physics to a fast, highly useable, and engaging creative platform. Such collaborative work, with creative application underpinned by robust scientific methodology, is ample evidence for the world of opportunities that Edinburgh's unique ethos can provide."