Burbling Bushes

After the initial excitement of entering the school year is exhausted, students and faculty look for locations surrounding campus to, “Get away from it all.” The trip to Tech Square revealed the last half of the block as a location to dispose of burdens.

 

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This spot, just outside of Ray’s, provides all of the soundscape’s relaxing qualities (described later in the post).

 

However, undesirable noises within the soundscape still exist. Thus, those within the area cannot fully unwind. “How do you solve this issue?” you may be asking. Put simply, the answer is continuous sound originating from bushes.

Before further elaboration on the soundscape, it must be made clear why relaxation is the assumed task. Both students and unknown city goers were found leisurely walking down the sidewalk, with some sitting down at other benches for extended periods of time. Lack of urgency was also exemplified in most observations taking place in the middle of the hour from 10 – 11 am, a time when very few classes/businesses are opening.

Now onto the subject of the half block’s soundscape, and how it can be improved with the proposed interface. Signal sounds of low amplitude and pleasing tonality included mellow music playing, birds chirping, and, most interestingly, leaves rustling. However, being next to a road, attention is ultimately drawn to cars being driven on the adjacent road. While most that did traveled slow, with low amplitude and pitch, a bus, or motorcycle would enter the roadway at sparse moments, and break the aura of relaxation. The idea of the “burbling bush” then comes to the forefront. This involves planting bushes, and equipping them with a small device, providing a sound similar to that of the antecedent leaf rustling. By reinforcing the strength of the desired sound, the prominence of the vehicular sounds is detracted. Also, the desired sound is similar to that of waves crashing, which can subliminally implant the impression of being on a beach vacation in one’s mind. However, the bush should not emit a sound too prominent as consciously perceiving the sound of a beach at an urban block would present a consistency problem. This is also why human speech should not be incorporated within the device. The abnormality of a “talking” bush would certainly create an anxious, not relaxed, feeling in the individual.

Don’t Miss Your Bus

While observing the intersection at 5th St. and West Peachtree St., I realized that the GT bus stop is a poor interface. We saw a guy miss his bus because the bus did not stop at the bus stop, either because the driver did not see him at the stop or because he was not paying attention to the bus pulling up. Catching the bus is an important task for GT students at this intersection, but it is not used with efficiency without a sound interface.

The bus stop is dependent on two different users: the driver and the waiting passengers. A sound interface for the driver at the bus stop would not be useful. A sound to catch the driver’s attention to inform them that someone is waiting for the bus would have to be very loud, which would be quite obnoxious for the people and restaurants nearby. A sound interface for the passengers would be more practical, as it would be quieter and would make catching the bus much easier.

The interface would have to accommodate two types of people at the bus stop, people on their phones and people sitting on benches. There is a set of benches right next to the stop that are popular for sitting and waiting. However, people sitting there may not see the next bus coming, and the benches are at a distance from the actual stop so the bus may not stop for them. Other passengers are usually on their phone or standing off to the side, not actively watching for a bus. Thus, a sound could easily remind both types when a bus is arriving or how long it will been until the next bus to ensure the passengers are ready for when the bus arrives.

This sound interface should be a voice combined with a tone. A tone alone would blend with the busy street soundscape and would be ignored easily. A tone with a voice would easily catch the attention of people waiting nearby. The tone shouldn’t be shrill, but it must be a higher pitch, like a bell, in order to draw people’s attention to it. The voice should sound authoritative, to give a sense of urgency that the bus will soon be there, but not commanding, as if confronting the passengers. A confident, low voice will accomplish this well. The system to perform this could be attached or built into the sign post at the stop with the route map. Imagine sitting at the bench waiting for the bus and hearing “*Ding* The bus is arriving. Please be ready to board.” This would be a more pleasant experience compared to getting anger from missing the bus you’ve been waiting for.

Tune Out Phones, Tune In Saftey

Tech Square has a constant stream of people and cars flowing through it. This high influx of transportation has resulted in the creation of a stop light system, to tell cars when to go and pedestrians when to cross. Pedestrian crossing is made safer by the simple street light system, but would benefit substantially from an added sound interface in the cross walk.

While crossing the street, users of the stop light interface are usually on their phones and not paying as much attention to crossing the street as they should be. While other users are not on their phones and are paying attention while crossing the street, this is not the majority. Therefore, a sound system needs to be implemented to alert the users who are not paying attention to the interface as it is when it is time to cross and when it isn’t, to make for a safer environment.

The sound system implemented would consist of verbal communication. The communication for the pedestrian light would signify both stopping and going for pedestrians in the cross walk. To signify when the light has changed to “stop” there would be a sharp, assertive male voice saying “wait.” When the light has changed to “go” there would be a higher pitched, less assertive male voice saying “go”. The sound to signify “stop” would be more assertive than the sound to signify “go,” because an alerting sound is more surprising to people than a calmer one (because it is very different sound from the normal soundscape of the environment). This would make people perk up and pay attention to what is going on around them. This would make the intersection safer for everyday users as well as people with visual disabilities, thus expanding safety and utility to more users.

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