This is the audio recording. The transcript is available at the bottom of the post.
A sample of the Tech Square soundscape:
At Tech Square, our group chose a more secluded area just a little bit down the road from the intersection of 5th and Spring, where it seemed like very little road traffic travelled. It was astounding how quickly the area turned from bustling and loud to quiet and calming. I’ve provided a sound sample to try to provide some sense of the soundscape of the area.
The more time I spent in the area, the more I came to believe that the space should prioritize the peace and tranquility that the naturally low traffic flow provides. The pedestrians that used the area seemed noticeably calmer and more laid back than the pedestrians just fifty yards away but nothing disrupted this calm more than when a bus, or in particular, a motorcycle would trawl through the area and disrupt the airspace. This is the problem that needs to be solved to make this area absolutely perfect, and to do this, I think the solution is a sound interface specifically designed to keep the noise pollution of the open road out.
Consider the amount noise pollution would be reduced if a canopy and a full length windowed wall were built atop this walkway. I’ve provided concept art of the sort of installation I’m talking about but in my imagination the windowed wall stretches all the way to the road. This installation would reduce noise pollution and provide a nice calming area for pedestrians to walk through or even for pedestrians to sit down and have lunch outside Starbucks or the pizza place with the picnic tables and benches provided. There could even be slow relaxing music piped into the area to add to the ambiance and help turn the area into an oasis of tranquility in the busy city environment. If the interface was advanced enough, it could even raise the volume of the music slightly when it sensed that there was a high noise level on the street to try and drown it out just a little bit.
I would be wary of allowing the terrace to speak as this might enter an uncanny valley where users would become unnerved by previously silent objects, such as general architecture speaking to them, especially when the terrace should in theory be servicing many different people at once. As is stated in Wired for Speech, humans do not fundamentally determine a difference between the voice of a computer and a human, and so a speech interface may confuse users into thinking somebody was trying to get their attention or, if the speech is clearly robotic, users may be annoyed by the interface interrupting their conversations. Furthermore, what service would a speech interface serve here? The only functionality that comes to mind is changing the music, which I think would be better served with a jukebox for such a comparatively small function.