Facebook buys Two Big Ears and makes its VR audio tool free

Facebook repackages the Scottish company's VR audio platform as "Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation" and makes it free.

In VR, what you hear is almost as important as what you see. Perhaps that's why Facebook just bought Two Big Ears, an Edinburgh-based spacial audio company. Terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.

Two Big Ears specializes in a set of tools that lets virtual-reality content creators build a 3D sound stage, taking sound from a variety of sources and syncing it up with 360-degree video footage or computer-generated games. As part of the acquisition, Facebook is making Two Big Ears' spacial workstation for VR video completely free. It's being rebranded as "Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation."

Though Two Big Ears is discontinuing its plug-ins for game creators (according to a transition FAQ), the company says it will work closely with Facebook's Oculus VR team to add its expertise to Oculus' software development kit.

Two Big Ears also says its tools will still work to create VR content for non-Facebook, non-Oculus platforms: "We will continue to be platform and device agnostic."

Facebook provided this statement on the acquisition: "Two Big Ears has revolutionized how humans hear sound with software. We're excited to welcome them to the Facebook team and give even more people access to their incredible work through our platform."

While that doesn't fully explain why Facebook purchased Two Big Ears, the company may be attempting to bring a 3D audio engine for the Oculus VR platform in house. In 2014, Oculus had to license a 3D audio engine from VisiSonics.

Disclosure: Sean's wife works for Facebook as a business-to-business video project coordinator.