New 3D Sound API (For Everyone?)
Posted on: 03/11/2000 11:50 PM

For a long time now, Windows users have been enjoying immersive 3D audio in our games and (some) other applications (four speaker A3D in PowerDVD rocks!). What about all the other OS's? Sure Linux has drivers for the SB Live! and Vortex based cards, but they don't enjoy all of the cool features that we Windows weenies do... Until now? It seems that there is a new 3D sound API on the horizon! One that is truely cross-platform compatible (even BeOS?!?). Sound interesting? Here's the scoop...
As is widely known, Linux has drivers for two types of sound cards with 3D audio capabilities, the Sound Blaster Live! from Creative and the Vortex line of cards from Aureal. Unfortunately, those drivers don't currently provide a way for games under Linux to use those 3D features. However, at the Linux Expo this past February, I heard about a new, open 3D audio API that would soon make its debut on Linux, Windows, and MacOS. At the Game Developer's Conference, an announcement has finally been made and the time has arrived to unveil this new API, called OpenAL.

With a clear nod to the familiar graphics API from SGI, OpenAL hopes to provide a cross-platform API that is as useful and powerful for 3D audio as OpenGL is for 3D graphics. Simply knowing that it exists, of course, raises several questions. Where did OpenAL come from? What features are supported? Who will be providing hardware support? What kind of games can we expect to see using OpenAL?

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