I was walking back to my apartment when all of a sudden, I wanted some Moe’s. It has been a while since I had it, so I walked over to Tech Square, which was the nearest location. By the time I arrived, I noticed that it was closed. It was sad, but another food place was open, so I went there instead. It was interesting to observe how many people go in and out to all the food places around Tech Square, and many are probably disappointed and in disbelief when they realize it is closed.
A sound-directed interface would be very helpful for this activity. When people are looking around Tech Square for food, if a sound was by the door after the person passed a certain point, it could be helpful in knowing if the area is closed. This helps people who can see and those who also cannot. For example, a person who is unable to see might just walk up to a door and try opening it several times thinking the door would just not open. This user, like in my situation, would greatly benefit if there was a sound informing him about the situation instead of wasting time and energy trying to open the door of a closed store.
Since just checking if a place is open is a very quick activity, the sound, too should also be very quick. A speech-based interface would be much more excessive, and may come off annoying if several people are trying to get into the restaurant. However, since it is sound-based, it should be clear whether something is closed or open, so the sound should have a very high-pitched, happy sound if it open, or a low-pitched, sad sound if it is closed. There should also be a certain delay when one person walked by, so if a group walks by, it again does not annoy the users. The goal is to be quick, informative, but not annoying.
A clear speech interface at the crosswalks of West Peachtree Street and 6th Street would reduce the human and machine inefficiency that currently plagues them. Users do not pay attention to the signals and overstay at either end of the crosswalk; this instead of actually crossing the road as soon as the signal turns. The crosswalk signals are hard to read; the users are focused on other tasks. Some users are talking on their reading texts phones, others mollycoddling their dogs or engaged in conversation with fellow users. This wastes many precious seconds at the light. While they themselves may not feel the effect of the wasted few seconds, the drivers at the crosswalk have to wait for longer. As each driver waits for longer, it sometimes leads to long pile-ups, often seen at busy intersections.
Based on observation, there were two main users of the crosswalk – business people commuting to and from their offices and tourists exploring midtown. The office-goers are taking calls while walking or talking to their walking partners. The tourists are entirely distracted in reading maps to find their way around to pay attention to the crosswalk signs. The voice directed interface should speak to both groups’ need to get somewhere soon and they would cooperate (principle of homophily).
Hence, the voice would be authoritative, urgent and to the point. It would just say, “Walk” in either a male or female (or alternating between the two) voice in a monotone, without showing a happy, sad or angry emotion. The voice would also have a neutral accent – not characteristic of any location so as to connect with all the different accents of a multicultural city like Atlanta equally. A single word would prevent the user to have to pay all their attention to the voice since they would not need to decode a long message. The sound would be augmented by Hyper Directional Speakers1 in addition to the already existing sight based interface. The speakers ensure that only users at the crosswalk who intend on crossing will hear and will extend the accessibility of the crosswalk to the blind.
Hyper Directional Speakers by Ultrasonic Audio Technologies. Ultrasonic – audio technologies. n.d. 23 September 2016. <http://ultrasonic-audio.com/>.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time walking between different buildings, getting lost and exploring the almost unbelievably beautiful campus in midtown Atlanta. Being an international student, I didn’t have an opportunity to tour the campus prior to the first week of school but I began my exploration for the perfect study spot on Day 1 of FASET. Living in a traditional dorm, I instantly recognized the inherently flawed soundscape of the small dorm room withit naturally victimised by noise pollution. After exploring the conventional student favourites of Library and Clough, I could finally find serenity in an area with soundmark designed to calm, relax, and concentrate a human being. The backyard of Eighth Street Apartment is the perfect outdoor space for concentrating, relaxing and solitary meditation during the day. The visual and acoustic traits of this landscape are remarkable.
First, the place lies at the near end of West Campus, allowing it to enjoy isolation during the daytime. This permits channelizing your senses into single focus and have a true nature experience which we, as an urban society, are rarely blessed to experience. While walking around the city, one often finds people trying to take refuge from the urban noise pollution by wearing headphones and immersing themselves in other gadgets. In stark contrast, the keynote sounds of the landscape — whistling breeze, sounds of crickets and birds chirping, hum of insects and susurrate of leaves along the tall trees — collectively creating an ambient experience.
Second, the background “music” of the soundscape allows for reduced listening while being plugged-out and experience the harmony of nature’s sounds. You must take a telephonic approach to the soundscape of this conducive environment as the background “music” helps to get away from any distractions (inner as well as outer) and really allows to concentrate at the task in hand. Further, the spatial signature of this sound prompts me to consider it as a POV sound that has strategically benches placed to have the best sound experience cut off from the hustling life of metropolitan Atlanta. The pitch and rate of the voices is just perfect to match with the rhythm of our breath and heart beats. It seems that we are intimately bound to mother nature by a unique ethereal connection.
Research results “strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers – NYT
As Henry Derozio experienced the bliss of nature under moonlight, you’re sure to find a similar but unique experience at this not so often visited place on campus. Scientifically speaking, the American Psychological Association certainly would support this perfect study spot. I’m glad to suggest you the perfect outdoor study spot when you don’t want yourself to be surrounded by many people.