Living in a New York apartment, I barely have room for two stereo speakers – let alone 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 surround-sound rigs. So I may not be the ideal person for Dolby's new Dolby Prologic IIz setup, which features up to 10 speakers, with two up in the air.
Prologic IIz gets its name from the Z-axis that designates depth. In Dolby's setup, it complements the speakers all around the game players with two over their heads—about three feet above the left and right surround-sound speakers. Dolby says this will heighten the realism of, for example, a helicopter flying overhead in a combat game. There aren't any titles that include this height information yet, but Dolby reps say they are "working with game developers."
A little more handy, perhaps, is another new Dolby tech called Axon, which lets you hear where your teammates are in multiplayer online games. Today, dialog all comes out the center channel, regardless of where players are in the virtual field. With Axon, their voices will be matched to their location. So if your buddy is covering your right flank in a combat game, for example, you'll hear him in the right-side surround speaker. As for games with the capability, once again, Dolby says it's still talking to developers.
Humans have two microphones attached to their head. Two. That's it. Most sound designers for film don't even know how to properly mix for 5.1 - all dialogue in the center channel? Seriously?
And why a center channel? Why not just pan the front left and right center for dialogue and such? There's no real reason to go over 4.1, then. And with a good stereo recording, utilizing headphones one doesn't even need that to get a GREAT sense of front, back, up, down, left, and right in an audio recording.
It ain't rocket science, so the only reason Dolby would do this is to sell more gadgets instead of creating BETTER ones, with BETTER audio standards. If you're going to have a different audio standard anyway, why not upgrade the QUALITY to 192kHz/32bit?
Two microphones attached to our heads can recognize depth and direction. Our world is an infinite amount of speakers.
Recognizing the z-axis on audio is easy if the audio is properly recorded or processed. If you've heard a holophonic recording on a 4.1 system, you'd know what I mean. The one most internet-famous is the recording of a matchbox being shaken around a holophonic stereo mic. If you haven't heard it - do it. It's awesome and crazy.