Dolby has announced the beta release of its Dolby Axon software to bring surround sound to chat rooms - and eventually online games.

The idea behind the software is that while in-game visuals embrace three dimensions, voices still all seem to come from the same place, making for a confusing audio jumble, especially when many people are talking at the same time.

With Dolby Axon, people each have a distinct location, with their voices coming from a set direction.

Massively multiplayer online chatting

The beta release of the application, first demonstrated to TechRadar at CES 2009, is standalone desktop client that Dolby claims can be used "with any game". Visual chat lets you invite up to 50 people into a chat and see a visual representation of the chat room.

You can quickly divide your chat participants into smaller groups for easier communication, lets you organise and categories friends into different guilds, and apparently provides a "new benchmark for audio quality on a low-bandwidth diet."

In the future, Dolby hopes that Axon will be integrated into games themselves, allowing voices to follow characters as they move and fade as they retreat.

You can register for the invitation-only beta of Dolby Axon at http://axon.dolby.com, and the launch begins on September 27.