What if you could use sound to create silence?
Built by — Yuri Suzuki
Yuri Suzuki is an experience and sound designer who works at the intersection of installation, interaction and product design. He joined Pentagram as a partner in 2018. His work encompasses sound, music, installations, product design, art direction, education and contemporary art for a range of clients across the world.
Sound Bubbles would allow you to construct silent zones of privacy within the home using spatial audio. Now, more than ever, we find ourselves using the home for a myriad of activities. A living room becomes an office; a kitchen becomes a call centre. Such a constant presence of activity challenges our sense of privacy, not only regarding personal space but also sound.
'Although humans have an innate ability to screen out specific sounds or frequencies, we face an increasing number of daily sound pollutants as well as a growing need for privacy.'
Sound-cancelling technologies (in some form or another) have been available for almost 100 years, often using a process known as 'phase cancellation’. This technique takes a sound wave and simply adds its inverse, reducing the sound to near silence in the process. Sound Bubbles pushes this technology to another level. Using a tablet, the experiment would allow you to scan your room and create a zone of localised silence in any given area.
Working like a microphone, your IoT speakers would recognise the source of all the different sounds around you and simultaneously emit the necessary audio to remove it in the shelter by phase cancellation. The application would also suggest alternative placements of your speakers in the room to achieve maximum effect. An additional background layer of white noise (think television static or a boiling kettle) could help to mask any other remaining sound.
'We can hear it, and we can feel it, but we can't actually see sound. In terms of the design, the challenge lay in creating shapes, materiality and movements that turn sound into something tangible.'
Sound Bubble Explorations.
Even though total silence is challenging to achieve, this application would create a close-to-silence effect, using multiple speakers within the space to allow for spatially accurate results. Such an outcome would be much more pleasing and effective than total silence, as we rarely ever naturally experience complete silence.
'The tension between transparency and security is at the heart of the experiment, something which has formed the basis of our visual aesthetic – a transparent bubble that engulfs and deflects unwanted sounds.'
In order to create the most effective shelter, an in-app visualiser would provide visual feedback, using the colour, density and frequency of coloured bubbles to express the characteristics of a sound source. For instance, a conference call on a laptop (high frequency) would appear as busy tiny bubbles, while background traffic (lower frequency) would move more sluggishly. By depicting sound sources and levels in this way, Sound Bubbles’ visual language would allow you to observe silence – something which can't usually be seen.
Audio Prototype Production by Counterpoint
Samuel Diggins + Tero Parviainen
Maxwell Sterling + Gabriel Vergara II
+ Jake Richardson + Marisol Ambriz