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.


Walking & Texting?! An Accident is Bound to Happen.

In the 21st century, texting has become the universal method of communicating and delivering messages quickly and efficiently. But! texting while walking is an activity that can be just as dangerous as texting while driving, especially in busy intersections such as the one my group and I observed at Tech Square. In comparison to those who were not texting and walking, the texting pedestrians were not as alert and often came out into the street before checking if a car was coming. When I recognized the danger of this activity among many of the individuals who crossed the intersection I began to ponder upon an interface that could better alert or warn “pedtextrians,” as they are called according to The Wall Street Journal, to avoid unfortunate accidents.
For this specific activity, many people may mention the claim that a sound or a disembodied voice on the sidewalk should utter the words “STOP” or “Do Not Walk” to improve this activity. While this will be effective to an extent, many people, like myself, will ignore this (1)keynote and become intelligible to the sounds around because we are so absorbed by what we are doing in our phones. Therefore, I believe that the best way to improve this activity is by using an interface that produces a disembodied voice that is programmed on the phones which the users are so engrossed in. They can never miss it because they are on their phone anyway. This interface, just like a navigation system, will automatically warn the pedestrian that they are about to enter an intersection five minutes before they actually enter the intersection. Therefore, the user is aware they need to be alert.

This first disembodied voice will be a female voice who portrays a normal pitched extroverted voice with a medium speech-rate. This voice cannot be too urgent or extroverted because there is no great risk of danger at this time, but when the pedestrian is 1 minute away from the crosswalk, a second message will signal that the person should get off their phone. The voice will of course remain as the same woman disembodied voice because according to Chapter 6 of Wired for Speech by Clifford Nass and Scott Brave, humans dislike inconsistency. Thus, the same woman will speak, but this time her voice will be high-pitched and her speech will indicate urgency. In regards to her much higher-pitched voice, this is useful because in general (2)people respond much better to an extroverted voice even if it may be inconsistent with the personality of the person who possesses the phone. Hopefully with this new interface it will deter walking and texting and help save lives.




(1)Sterne, Jonathan. “The Sound Studies Reader.” Routledge, 2012, pp. 48-53

(2) Nass, Clifford & Brave, Scott. “Wired For Speech: How Voice Activates and Advances the Human-Computer Relationship.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2005, pp. 47-60

(3) Zimmer, Ben. “What Do You Call a Reckless Texter?” Wall Street Journal, 29 December 2015, Accessed 27 September 2016.

An Evolved Soundscape

The library of antiquity has often been seen as a place of vast knowledge and resources, a watering hole for the rare yet somewhat snobby specimen sometimes called the intellectual. But in modern times, with the rise of e-commerce cutting the price of books and an increasingly growing wealthy middle class, the need for a library has begun to be questioned. Gone is the age of the past, some have declared, boldly exclaiming the death of religion, philosophy, arts, music, concert halls, radio, books, libraries, and whatever else in order to add to these fanatics’ histrionic nature. And yet all have survived, and the library is no exception. It has in fact evolved, as one article ensures, stating that, “They [the libraries] are offering programs in technology, career and college readiness and also in innovation and entrepreneurship – all 21st-century skills, essential for success in today’s economy.” The library has transcended a place for just gathering to read books, but now has incorporated many different roles from tech savvy center to public lecture hall.

It is in this kind of setting that I find myself in the Georgia Tech library; being a technical school I hope that it will at least serve the role of a tech savvy center. The library has at Georgia Tech transformed into the role of a study and tech center. And indeed I find this to be true. A quick use of reduced listening finds myself hearing the clicking of computer mice more than the flipping of book pages. Occasionally in the distance I can hear the beeping signal noise as students swipe their buzzcards across the turnstiles. Such a noise is produced with the idea of intelligibility in mind, in order to signal to the student that they have gained access. Returning to reduced listening, the technological evolution can again be heard in the occasional sound of the printer, whirring to life as it prepares to do its job. I also discern the sound of other students engaged in conversations and also the sound of pencils writing on paper. And if I focus even further, I can suddenly feel the roar of the A/C, a sound that seems almost like silence until it actually becomes silent. I believe it is all of these noises that help one concentrate and study and feel in a modern space. The sounds of technology, of the printers, the computers, the beeping, all help in making the location feel more sleek and clean, adding to the tech center feel. Hearing the sound of other students studiously working, the sound of the pencils on paper, the flipping of textbook pages, as they prepare for the quiz tomorrow help motivate oneself and propels one forward in their own preparation, hopefully for a quiz that is in a week and not tomorrow.

This is the library of today. So yes in a way the old library has died, but is that a bad thing? In its place lies a transformed space, and at Georgia Tech it has become a study and tech center, and the sounds that accompany it help serve that role.