Microsoft to bring Dolby Atmos to Xbox One, Windows 10

December 15, 2016 | 11:00

Tags: #bandwidth #console #dolby-atmos #larry-hryb #major-nelson #surround-sound #throughput #windows-10 #xbox-one

Companies: #blu-ray #dolby #microsoft

Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 and its Xbox One console are both set to get native support for Dolby Atmos audio technology, even as it fixed a console bug that hobbled users' network performance.

First announced by Dolby Laboratories in April 2012 and launched in June as the cinema audio format for the Pixar film Brave, Atmos is designed to allow up to 128 independent audio tracks and associated special audio description data including location or pan information with support for 64 separate speaker feeds. Naturally, the home implementation launched in 2014 is a little scaled down from its cinema origins: Dolby Atmos in the home adds a special substream to existing Dolby TrueHD or Digital Plus signals mixing together the up-to-128 tracks from the cinema data and supporting a 24.1.10 (24 surround speakers, one subwoofer, and 10 overhead or specifically spatially-located speakers) mix.

With the first Atmos Blu-ray - Transformers: Age of Extinction - having been released in 2014 and Star Wars: Battlefront getting an Atmos upgrade in 2015, content featuring the format is available for those who have the equipment to play it back. Soon, that group of lucky home cinema enthusiasts will widen thanks to Atmos support being baked into Windows 10 machines and the Xbox One games console in a future update.

'Atmos support for the Blu-ray app on Xbox [One] is already available in Preview and will be released to GA [general availability] soon,' explained Microsoft's Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb in the announcement, 'and we’re very excited now to offer Atmos support to games on Xbox One and Windows 10. You’ll be able to experience Dolby Atmos in your home theater, assuming you have a Dolby Atmos enabled speaker system or soundbar. But you don’t need to have that kind of equipment – it will be possible to enable virtually any pair of headphones with the Dolby Atmos experience.'

The update will bring Blu-ray bitstream pass-through to the Xbox One and will be followed some time next year by support for Dolby Atmos within games. Thus far, no timescale has been given for the update's release.

At the same time, Microsoft has released a software update for the Xbox One which resolves a major thorn in users' sides: extremely poor network performance. Previously, users with 100Mb/s or greater broadband connections have been finding their downloads running at around half their potential - despite Microsoft running one of the largest cloud computing platforms in the world. The reason, it transpires, is not a failure to spin up enough server instances to meet demand or put in enough backbone capacity but instead a software bug which has now been resolved. Following this week's update, Microsoft has promised, users should find their download performance on high-speed broadband lines boosted by around 80 percent.
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