A group of industrial design graduate students in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, have created a beautiful art project that visualizes sound and showcases a new, sensitive technology for isolating and eliminating ambient noise. The installation, which was displayed at GLOW 2013 a couple of weeks ago, visualizes sound as a series of circles of different sizes and speeds in response to spectators’ sounds and movements. Visitors entering the project area are encourage to talk, whistle, and stomp their feet, creating sounds of different locations, frequencies and volumes. These sounds are visualized by circles projected on the ground that grow and shrink.
The technology underlying these responses is in the four Sorama sound cameras, with 1024-channel microphone arrays that are designed for picking up sources of ambient noise in three dimensions and thus can visualize potential noise problems – a helpful tool for engineers trying to design quieter products. The visualization technology helps tell product engineers about a quality of noise known as pressure, which accounts for the exact behavior of air particles over, for example, fan blades as they pass a given point.
According to the European Federation for Transport and Environment, over 50,000 people in the EU die each year from heart attacks caused by traffic noise, and there are nearly 200,000 cases of non-fatal cardiovascular disease caused by these conditions. “In our modern society, there are airplanes, cars, ventilation systems all around us all the time, so we hear it all the time, but we move it to our subconsciousness,” said Rick Scholte, the founder of Sorama and a teacher and researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology. ”But we do create stress hormones.” The technology underlying the sound cams was first developed in the U.S. in the 80′s, but as Scholte discovered at an internship ten years ago, it took four hours to measure the sound field of something as simple as a fan and a day for all the data to render.
Hopefully, the stressed-out bodies of visitors found a respite in the activity of creating light with sound.
Here’s a video of Scholte demonstrating the Sorama sound camera (press “CC” for English subtitles):