Designing for sound

27 Jan 2009 - 5:27pm
5 years ago
3 replies
564 reads
Jerome Covington

Sound as a part of interaction design seems to be the domain of games,
mostly. But I would love to hear more about how members of this list
envision the role of sound in other scenarios. I feel that it is the
most (sadly) under-utilized aspect of design.



28 Jan 2009 - 2:48am
Angel Marquez

Didn't you see 'Pirates of The Silicon Valley' where The Woz explains what
inspired the beginning of his legacy?

28 Jan 2009 - 10:15am
Graeme Coleman

Jerome, you have hit the nail on the head - indeed, I have recently
completed a PhD on the very points you raised!

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29 Jan 2009 - 2:54pm
frank dahle

Hello Jerome!

In stead of theory here are some findings from projects..
For the last two years I've been working on two separate mobility
(PDA) concepts, both where sound came to be a challenge.

One of them is an application for security guards, where sound
discipline is critical.
Walking around alone at night trying to pay attention to everything
without being seen, you can't have a PDA in your belt beeping away
for every incoming message.
But some messages are critical and urgent - and that was the

After some thinking and experimenting we found that the length of the
sound was the best way to divert between critical and not so critical
It was partly based on a suggestion that low volume sounds are hard
to recognise from each other.
But the most important idea was that - without any training up front
- a longer sound intuitively should "feel" more important than a
short one.
..together with vibration of course..
And usability tests confirmed the idea - it worked!

For the other project the challenge is the oposite.
Logistic workers, outdoors at a huge an very noisy industrial plant.
The interesting part here is this:
These guys are wearing professional ear protection, even with noise
And with huge trucks and mobile cranes constantly roaring by,
vibration doesn't work.
This led us to a cool experiment with pitch rather than volume or
pattern (melody).
We're not finished yet but some inital testing suggests that we're
on to some effective sounds that are able to penetrate those ear

Hope this was somewhat useful to you, Jerome.

Any similar projects anyone?
While I'm at it - is there anyone here who have some experience with
DEXTERRA mobility software?

Frank Dahle
UX concept developer

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