Music To My Ears

Walking to and from class, stopping for coffee or a bite to eat, relaxing at a table with a laptop propped, Tech Square is bustling with people. No matter how hectic traffic is, both on the street and the sidewalk, people distract themselves with technology. One is objected the constant hum of traffic, voices of people on the street, and many other surrounding sounds, yet so many pass by without hearing any of it. More people than not adorn headphones as they enter the intersection.

What if someone yells to warn a pedestrian of oncoming traffic? What if they can not hear the engine of a car approaching that they forgot to check for? How does wearing headphones in such a busy place potentially endanger those present? Warning sounds, such as yelling, loud screeches from car tires stop, or horns honking alert pedestrians of potential dangers and help them interact with the traffic in a safer way. When someone shuts out these potential warnings, however, a simple crosswalk symbol is not enough to prevent accident.

As people walk through the intersection, many ignore the crosswalk signal entirely, already creating an unsafe situation. But even if the signal gave verbal warnings and instructions, as many argue would improve the interface, the majority of users would not benefit due to their use of headphones. Given the relevance of technology and smartphones, an app connected to the timing of traffic lights and walk signals would reek benefits for many users. As pedestrians walk with headphones plugged in and approach a crosswalk, the app would give verbal cues over the music in order to ensure that the message of when to and not to cross is effectively relayed. Such a voice would need to portray the danger in crossing when unsafe in order to warn even the most distracted pedestrian from walking into traffic.

One comment

  • Evan Bretl

    I like the idea of a crosswalk sound that integrates into the music that pedestrians are listening to. There are a few challenges with designing this system. First, the phone needs to know in which direction the user intends to cross the street. Whenever Spring Street is safe to cross, Fifth Street is unsafe, and vice versa; this means that the user needs to communicate the direction in which he/she wants to cross. Second, a big reason why so many people listen to music while they walk is because they want to tune out the distracting soundscape of the city. Then, most people also wouldn’t want to add the interruption of a crosswalk sound over their music. If these two issues could be addressed, this idea could be very useful for people in the intersection.

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