The Voice of an Intersection

The intersection is a complex environment with an interface that uses colors and symbols to communicate either to go or stop; the confusion of these commands could be life threatening. The interface of the intersection would improve if it had a voice aspect.

There are two main users of the intersection and interface, drivers and walker. It is vital that both understand the interface and the commands it gives. Humans are very easily distracted and this could be dangerous if the interface is completely dependent on visual cues.

The improved interface would consist of an additional app that is built into new cars and available for smartphones. This app would be linked to the traffic light interface in real time. This would allow the app to verbally tell the driver lots of information regarding the intersection. It would inform the driver of the command of the traffic lights: “go” or “prepare to stop.”

We observed many of the people walking had headphones in while crossing the intersection. This could be very dangerous because the hearing the different sounds of the intersection are important to safety. For example, we heard the sounds of the car engine idling, the brakes, and the engine revving. With headphones in all this information is lost.  So, the new interface app would interrupt the music and say either “Safe.” or “Not safe to cross.”

The voice itself would match the emotion and mood of the traffic lights having a very calm and steady tone being both neutral and an indication of caution low in intensity. The voice would be a feminine synthetic voice much like Siri. The interface would have these traits so that it is perceived as friendly, intellectual, and non-bothersome.


The Fountain of Sanctuary

People come here to relax and enjoy themselves. Couples can often be found together escaping from the stress and worries of classes. The one sense that greatly contributes to the tranquility of the fountain is the sound of the water. This fountain has a unique keynote sound found nowhere else on campus. The sound of running water. Water is vitally important to all living creatures and the sound of a river and waterfall are built into our nature to be recognized and provide comfort.

In our most basic forms of listening, Causal and Semantic, the sound of running water immediately tells us that water is nearby and where it can be found. Being able to find the source of this water and knowing of its existence can be lifesaving. The sound of running water is welcomed and enjoyable by our nature.

The sound itself is much harder to describe. When using reduced listening the sound of the fountain ceases to be the sound of water but rather an nonuniform, sporadic noise. It keeps roughly the same pitch but commonly deviates from the pitch in a chaotic way. It becomes almost a white noise.

Fidelity plays a huge role in this soundscape. The keynote sound often overpowers the sound of the many footsteps and distant voices but they are still present. For those that come here for the relaxation and tranquility the keynote sound masks the sounds of regular campus life. Specifically, when one sits and closes they eyes and takes in the entirety of the soundscape they realize that the background noise is vital to the feeling the soundscape evokes. The keynote masks what you hear every day and in doing so provide a metaphorical blanket which you can hide from the stress of class and find relaxation and tranquility. Without the background noise you would forget you were under this blanket and be lost completely to the sound of the water.