French version : INSOUND™
The first senses that we develop in the womb are touch, followed by hearing. INSOUND™ invites you to question this profound relationship between the body and sound.
Each sound, music, or noise that we hear is transmitted to our ears by sound waves : invisible movements of molecules suspended in the air which cause our eardrums to vibrate.
By taking this notion and applying it to the entire body, not just the ears, one may realize that the entire body, and more particularly our bones, can receive and comprehend sound through vibration. Having been fundamentally inspired by bone conduction and the spectrum of human hearing, I designed a wearable system which spatializes and distributes sound and vibration to the body, whether that information comes from speech, music, or specially fabricated sounds to evoke numerous other future applications.
This wearable, INSOUND™, contains four to eight vibrating units, which are integrated into the fabric of a light vest which can be easily worn by individuals of varying heights and shapes.
The physical aspect of sound becomes tangibly apparent when, for example, you touch a set of speakers emitting music. It vibrates. This same vibration, coming directly from the sound source, is the type of vibration that I utilize to create the spatialized haptic patterns that one feels while using the wearable.
Sonorous vibration is something that one hears and feels, at once. Even if an individual lives with profound deafness, they will still have a tangible experience of sound by means of the tactile sensation on the skin. This allows several perceptive possibilities… hearing, feeling, or both at the same time. The sensation of the vibration depends on the characteristics of the sound itself – its amplitude (loudness), frequency (pitch), and all other variables. The frequency of the vibration has a special relationship with the physical sensation that it produces. The higher the vibration, the higher up on the spinal column that one is able to hear the sound. The lower the frequency, the lower on the spinal column that one may prefer to feel the vibration. If the frequency is very high, it won’t be easy to feel, since the sound waves are so small, but the sound will be audible (unless the user is elderly or hard of hearing).
I began the project with participative research. Since the object is meant to be used by a large number of people, I wanted to try to see as many people as possible react to bone conduction and sonorous vibration before beginning to truly concretize my idea.
I dismantled a small bluetooth speaker, in order to use its inner functional components. I replaced its external box, which normally serves to amplify the sound, by a vibrating unit. This simple device, shown in the gif above, can transmit any type of sound that I chose to send to it, in stereo. I did my first tests in this manner, having my test participants ‘listen’ to different frequencies through the elbow and the spinal column, to get a sense of the variation of sensitivity to vibration from person to person.
This testing device served as a ‘brick’ for the construction of my fully wearable prototypes, one example of which is seen demonstrated in the above gif. Take a look at the video below to get a sense of how I carried out my research, and where the project has taken me and will take me in the future. I will be prolonging this multimodal research in the framework of a doctoral thesis, starting in fall 2018.