Keynotes and Panels

2020 AES International Conference on Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality

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Featured Panel Discussion:

Tuesday, August 18:  VALVE Audio Team

Featured Keynote Speakers:

Monday, August 17:  Varun Nair

Wednesday, August 19:  Poppy Crum




New Audio Realities At Scale

Varun Nair, Facebook

What does it take to ship new audio technology at a scale of billions of people? What does it take to productize great research and make it available in products? How can the bleeding edge find impact? The last 1% takes 99% of effort and time. Often the biggest technology blockers are found when scaling solutions that work for many people. The last mile is where a lot of innovation happens. This talk is part retrospective and part future looking on what it takes to create compelling audio technologies and experiences for AR and VR. We'll deep-dive into lessons learned in shipping products over the years and use that as a marker to understand what the future looks like and what needs to be done to improve the state of audio for AR and VR.

Varun has spent the past 15 years with audio, working on hundreds of projects — including software development, product management, media post-production and interactive content production. He co-founded Two Big Ears and led development of audio tools and technology for VR, AR and emerging immersive media. Two Big Ears was acquired by Facebook in 2016, where he currently leads the AR/VR audio software team working on algorithms, tools, spatial audio technology and scalable audio systems across a wide range of software and hardware products.





When Worlds Collide: Audio Development of the Valve Index and Half-Life: Alyx

Emily Ridgway, VALVE

Emily Ridgway currently works at Valve Software as an interactive audio specialist, writer and hardware designer. Before joining Valve Emily was best known for her work as Audio Director and sound designer on award winning video game titles such as Bioshock, Brutal Legend and Destroy All Humans to name a few. Since joining Valve 8 years ago, Emily has championed immersive audio across VR in both hardware and software domains. She is the driving force behind the Valve Index Off-Ear Speakerphone design, the acquisition of Steam Audio, as well as much of the sound design in The Lab VR and Counter-Strike:Global Offensive. Most recently Emily contributed as a writer and sound designer on Valve's flagship virtual reality game, Half-Life: Alyx, released on March 23, 2020. She enjoys windsurfing on hydrofoils and listening to synthwave in her spare time.

Robin Walker, VALVE

Robin Walker is a game designer and programmer at Valve who began his career working on Team Fortress as a mod for id Software's QuakeWorld in 1996. The success of Team Fortress lead Robin and his team to be hired by the then-small Valve to work on Team Fortress Classic and later on Team Fortress 2. Since then, Robin has worked broadly in development roles across multiple Valve games, including Half-Life 2 and Dota 2. During this time, Robin has become a respected voice on the intersection of economics and game design, largely due to the success of transforming Team Fortress 2 from a Triple A retail product into a free-to-play, customer service based game as well as his work on Dota 2. Most recently, Robin worked as a programmer on Valve's flagship virtual reality game, Half-Life: Alyx, released on March 23, 2020.

Joy Lyons, Harman International

Joy Lyons is an applied scientist that specializes in bringing research out of the lab and into the hands of consumers through innovative, category defining products. In her current role, she is a Senior Director of Audio Technology at Harman International in the corporate research division, Harman X, focused on intelligent and immersive audio. Prior to this she worked at Valve corporation on the Index VR headset, at OSSIC on 3D audio technology, and at Logitech/Ultimate Ears on acoustical systems and product development. She has degrees in Physics (BS) and Music (BA) from the University of Washington (Seattle), and Physical Acoustics (MS) from the Pennsylvania State University and combines the theory with practical application and industry experience.

David Feise, VALVE

Dave Feise works as a Sound Designer at Valve focusing specifically on sound effect creation as well as in-game audio systems, audio tools, and scripting. Prior to his work on Half-Life: Alyx, Dave worked on other Valve titles including The Lab, Portal 2, and Left 4 Dead 2. Dave was previously a Sound Designer at Electronic Arts where he created sounds for several games, most notably Dead Space. He has a BA in audio production from Expression College in Emeryville, California


Anish Chandak, VALVE

Anish is a software engineer at Valve. He is one of the main developers of Steam Audio and has worked on integrating spatial audio technologies in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Half-Life: Alyx. Before joining Valve, Anish was the co-founder and CEO of a VR audio tech startup Impulsonic. He did his undergraduate in Computer Science from IIT Bombay in 2006 and received his Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill in 2011.






Empathetic technology and embodied user experience

Poppy CrumDolby


Dr. Poppy Crum is Chief Scientist at Dolby Laboratories. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and the Program in Symbolic Systems. At Dolby, Poppy directs the growth of internal science. She is responsible for integrating neuroscience and sensory data science into algorithm design, technological development, and technology strategy. At Stanford, her work focuses on the impact and feedback potential of new technologies including gaming and immersive environments such as Augmented and Virtual Reality on neuroplasticity and learning. Poppy is a U.S. vice-chair to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) member of the Stanford Research Institute Technical Council, and Consumer Technology Association Board of Industry Leaders. Prior to joining Dolby Laboratories Poppy was Research Faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where her neurophysiological research focused on understanding the neural correlates of how we hear in a complex acoustic environment and the functional circuitry of the auditory cortex. Poppy is a Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. She is a: 2018 recipient of the Advanced Imaging Society’s Distinguished Leadership Award, a 2017 recipient of the Consumer Technology Association’s Technology and Standards Achievement Award for work towards the introduction of over-the-counter hearing-aid devices, and has been named to Billboard Magazine’s 100 most influential female executives in the music industry. She is a frequent speaker including, TED, SXSW, IEEE, TNW, WIRED, on topics related to the intersection of: human experience, artificial intelligence, sensory data-science, and immersive technologies.


AES - Audio Engineering Society