Internet of things needs to use sound in ways computers and phones never have
Till these days in an athletic or swimming competitions they use starter’s pistol because, firstly, sound enables us to receive messages even when we are busy doing something else and secondly, our speed of interpreting information from a sound is 40 milliseconds faster than visual signals.
This is also the case with many of the devices and machines we use, for example, when a kettle hisses we know that the water has boiled. It is same with a pop-up toaster, a low humming noise of the refrigerator or the smooth mechanical sound of a car engine. All these sounds assure us and give us important messages that the device is working properly.
“Sound” – as a mode of communication has been neglected in Digital Designing
However, curiously enough this particular kind of communication using sound has not been taken seriously in the digital age! Our smartphones and computers do use sounds to inform us certain things but because it is not as essential for us like the other things described above, we tend to mute it off most of the time.
Digital designers have surprisingly designed sound communication to be used in a secluded way only. They have never considered the wider context or the whole. It happens very often that when we keep the sound alert is on for a number of devices we cannot decipher which device is actually giving us the signal or what exactly that signal means.
These digital devices do not acknowledge that our hearing develops as we hear similar sounds more and more, and we can do with less hearing of that sound to understand the working of the device. These devices neither consider people with different hearing abilities nor the difference between urgent and casual need of a user.
So far, we have dealt with all these shortcomings due to the fact that sound signals are not so necessary when we have the visual cues from our screen. However, all these are going to change in the era of the Internet of Things. We all know that more and more household or daily devices are getting computerised and connected to the internet.
These devices will communicate with each other and hopefully evolve with us and provide us with a completely new communication experience.
Sound can be controlled
Now sound alert from these devices could be controlled and customised according to our necessity and urgency. They could be programmed so that, they produce fewer sounds over the period as we get accustomed to them.
There is also an urgent need to translate real sounds into virtual like in some computer you get the sound of paper being crumpled to give you the message of cleaning trash. There are n numbers of physical sounds to choose from and work with. However, it may not be easier to find direct correlation all the time, the sound engineer can find the fundamental language which is similar in both real and virtual world. For example, Loud sounds convey messages of higher importance; high pitched sounds are located easily; a short burst of irregular sounds catch attention quickly.
Learning by listening
If we are talking about smart devices then they should be smart and a smart device is expected to learn from its experiences. One of those experiences should come from “hearing” other devices and other peripheral sounds. Devices should learn from this listening experience and then adapt accordingly.
Maybe we could expect one day that, a smoke alarm will not sense the fire but also identify which or what is causing it by hearing the sounds. Open taps should close themselves as soon as they hear the gurgling of water on the floor. The noise of children crying may trigger off a soothing music or turn on the speaker with their mother’s or father’s voice.