Everyday Audio

Brief Description

In any given situation, there will be multiple auditory channels reaching the ear. However, we are able to focus our attention on one of them. The remaining auditory channels are typically monitored in the periphery of our attention. In other words, we do not have to pay specific attention to them, but if something unusual happens, our attention immediately shifts. For example, when driving a car, one will normally focus the attention on the road, the radio, or the conversation with passengers. However, when the engine suddenly makes an unusual noise, the attention immediately switches to this sound. In other words, the sound of the engine that is normally in the periphery of the attention shifts to the foreground. The same thing will happen when you hear someone say your name.

In this project, you will explore how you can leverage the above described auditory perception skills in interaction design. The goal of this project is to study how audio can be linked to everyday objects to provide peripheral information while interacting with these objects. For example; what if the refridgerator tells us what is in it whenever we open it, or the door-knob tells us if it is going to rain when we open the front door? In this project you will explore and create several of such auditory cues and study their potential use in a home context.

Objectives / Specifics

(project objectives; learning goals)
This is an exploratory research-through-design project. This means that, after getting an initial understanding of the research area, the student will quickly start experimenting with different sounds and their potential mapping to selected information. Eventually, the goal is to develop a simple interactive system that provides auditory information as a result of everyday actions in the home environment. This design should be placed in the home environment for a period of time on order to gather knowledge on how and when sounds may be perceived in the periphery or the center of the attention and how this can be used in interaction design.


The following deliverables are expected:
– report in (CHI-) paper format
– a movie illustrating the interactive system

Information Sources

[1] Eggen, B. and Mensvoort, K. van. Making Sense of What Is Going on ‘Around’: Designing Environmental Awareness Information Displays. In Awareness Systems. 2009, 99-124.
[2] Gaver, W.W. What in the World Do We Hear? An Ecological Approach to Auditory Event Perception. Ecological Psychology 5, 1 (1993), 1-29.
[3] Oleksik, G., Frohlich, D., Brown, L.M., and Sellen, A. Sonic interventions: understanding and extending the domestic soundscape. Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, ACM (2008), 1419-1428.

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