VIA chipsets to sport WLAN, 3D audio tech

Gears up to compete with Centrino

VIA is moving to beef up the technology integrated into its chipsets. The Taiwanese manufacturer yesterday revealed it has licensed Sensaura's 3D Positional Audio (3DPA) technology for future sound controller chips. Today, it announced it has bought the wireless applications design center it founded with Swedish research institute Acreo in May 2001.

Based in Lund, Sweden, the center will develop radio frequency technology which VIA's chipset designers can then build into future chipsets. With Intel gearing up to launch its wireless-oriented Centrino chips and chipsets next week, a rapid commercialisation of VIA's wireless research JV isn't surprising - VIA needs to get comparable WLAN facilities into its chipsets quickly if it's to remain competitive.

Its deal with Sensaura is less time-sensitive, perhaps, but part of the same broad stategy. Sensaura 3DPA comprises three key components: MacroFX, which allows sounds sources to appear as if they are very close to the listener - the example Sensaura offers is a bee buzzing around the listener's head.

EnvironmentFX simulates the effect of environments on sounds: the way that sound sources behind walls are sound differently from when they are in the same room, for example, and how different wall materials - wood, stone, metal, etc. - cause sounds to reverberate in different ways.

Multidrive controls front and rear speaker systems for what Sensaura claims is a more realistic soundscape than simply panning sounds from one speaker to another as the listener's virtual location changes. Multidrive creates two sound hemispheres for each speaker set, and blends them into a single 3D whole.

VIA was tight-lipped about which products will feature Sensaura's intellectual property, which operates through Microsoft's DirectSound3D API. 3DPA is compatible with Creative Labs' EAX 1.0 and 2.0 APIs, and with the I3DL2 standard, so the VIA parts should be able to operate with a wide range of titles from launch. ®