My thesis project is focused on citizens of big cities, but is also for anyone that would like to learn more about the noises that we are surrounded with in our various environments. I found this topic interesting because I am sensitive to noise and it seems to me that people living in the city continue to lose their private quiet spaces. I am wondering if other people are feel the same way?
I have created an interactive art installation that will help people identify their mental reactions to different noises in their environment. As a design-oriented person, I tried to make my experimental installation as interactive as possible. My installation represents the effects of noise on people’s minds.
I wanted to understand the positive and negative effects of sound in our daily lives. I also wanted people to be more aware of the noises that surround them every day.
The latest version of the project is here:
My project uses a NeuroSky mind wave device, speakers for translating the sound, an application that I created with Processing software, and a projector that displays the application data from the user and NeuroSky.
The interface of my application is designed as a collision of bouncing balls and growing sound wave. The bouncing balls and the wave change color from green to orange to red based on the users level of reaction to the city sounds measured from 1 to 100 (1 = green colored bouncing balls and 100 = red colored bouncing balls).
Participants in my project will sit still with the NeuroSky mind wave device attached to their head, listening to different sounds from speakers in the room. The data will be gathered and represented by visual effects from the projector according to the level of stress created by the noises as determined by the brain impulses of the user. The user will not be able to see this data until after the experiment is complete.
First phase of the experiment:
My first participant sat and listened to a track of urban noises for ten minutes. He heard many urban noises including a garbage truck, rain, subway musicians, car noises, children crying in public, sirens, and birds, among other noises. The participant enjoyed some of the noises including music beats, rain and birds. When he heard these noises, his mind was not stressed out and the bouncing balls stayed green in color. The participant did not like other noises such as crying children, a fire alarm and traffic noises. When my participant heard these noises, his mind experienced stress and the bouncing balls turned from green to orange to red. My participant enjoyed learning how the urban noises affected the stress level of his brain. He found that the different colors accurately represented his stress levels. He did not like that some of the noises were annoying to him. He did find the overall experience to be enjoyable.
Second phase of the experiment:
For the second part of my experiment I used a projector and higher quality sound speakers. I chose a dark room for projecting my application on the wall. I asked Kate Sicchio to be my participant. I connected Kate to the NeuroSky device and had her face the projection of the application so that Kate could see her results. I turned on my track with the sounds and Kate listened. Kate could see the reaction of her mind to the sounds right away. The bouncing balls changed color based on the reaction of her brain to the sounds. According to her feedback, the projected images were distracting to her because she was not only concentrating on the sounds but on the visuals as well. At certain times she could stimulate her brain reaction based on the visual effects instead of just the sounds. We decided to try to do the experiment in a different way. Kate turned around so that her back was to the projection and she listened to the sounds again. His time, Kate did not see the visual effects. In fact, she even closed her eyes so as not to be distracted while she listened to the sounds. The results looked different and better matched the expectations. Most of the time Kate felt relaxed and the bouncing balls were green in color. When stressful noises were introduced, the balls turned orange or red in color. In conclusion, I decided to do my installation without any visual elements for my users. The installation is going to be clearly about the sound. The users will be in a relaxed environment where the users are exposed to the sounds only. The projector will still show the results but the users will not be able to see them at the time of the experiment. The users will, however, be able to see the results afterwards. I will create instructions where the users will have the choice of having the results recorded on a video on their phone or could choose to have me email a video of the results of the session to them.
Third phase of the experiment:
For the third part of my experiment, I set up the room in a dark space. I used plastic pipes and light green curtains in order to create a small square room, where my participant Jed was able to listen to the different urban sounds without any distractions from the outside. Jed walked into the dark class room, where the projector was reflecting the default interface of my application right on top of the room that I installed. Jed mentioned that my whole idea looked cool and that he felt excited to be my participant. I explained to Jed the goal of my experiment and how to use the equipment for the installation. After that, we set up the NeuroSky Device on his head and Jed sat down inside of the small room with green curtains. After Jed got situated on the chair and let me know that he felt comfortable, I turned the sounds on. Jed started to listen to the urban sounds from the speakers. He felt totally relaxed in the small light green room, and there were no distractions from outside. Jed was concentrating on the sounds and their origins. The NeuroSky Device started to pick up the data that Jed’s brain was producing and reflected it into the application. The projector was translating bouncing balls that changed colors from green to orange or red. Jed’s brain was definitely reacting to the different urban sounds. For some sounds Jed’s brain did not produce much data, the brain did not react on it, and the color of the balls was greenish. Some sounds would make Jed’s brain react and concentrate more, and the color of the balls was in between orange and red. While Jed was inside of the small room, I recorded the visuals for him outside. Jed chose for me to send him the visual results via email, as he did not want to use the memory of his phone for the video. After about five minutes Jed asked me if the experiment was over. I let him know that he could leave whenever he pleased, as the experiment has no specific time frame. Jed left the room and felt extremely curious about the data that his brain was producing while he was inside. I showed Jed the video that I made while he was taking part in the experiment. Jed’s comment was that I should probably reconsider the visuals for my application because he thought the visuals should be more related to sound and sound waves. Other than that, Jed enjoyed trying my experimental installation. He learned more about the urban environment that we are living in and how our brains react to different sounds.