Facebook buys Edinburgh VR audio firm

Two Big Ears, the spatial audio company founded in 2013 by Edinburgh University graduates Abesh Thakur and Varun Nair, has been bought by Facebook.

The firm has developed software that lets virtual-reality (VR) content creators build a 3D ‘sound stage’, taking audio from a variety of sources and syncing it with 360-degree video or computer-generated games. The technology makes it possible to hear a sound from any point in space, using ordinary headphones, and was featured last year in a Bjork retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Facebook is investing heavily in VR through its previous acquistion of the Oculus VR platform. “Two Big Ears has revolutionised how humans hear sound with software,” it said in a statement. “We’re excited to welcome them to the Facebook team and give even more people access to their incredible work through our platform.”

Two Big Ears, which received Scottish Enterprise funding last year, said its software can still be used to create VR content for non-Facebook, non-Oculus platforms: “We will continue to be platform and device agnostic,” said the company.

As well as Scottish Enterprise funding, the company has been mentored by Neil Heywood, a non-executive director at Craneware, and George Elliot, non-executive chairman of Craneware. Terms of the deal with Facebook were not disclosed.

Born in Kolkata, India, Thakur gained an undergraduate degree in electronic engineering and worked for an IT consultancy in Chennai before coming to Edinburgh in 2011 to study for a masters in acoustics and music technology.

Nair, from Bangalore, worked for nine years in the music and post-production industries before taking a masters in sound design at Edinburgh Collerge of Art which became part of Edinburgh University in 2011.

A statement on their website said: “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.”