Did you hear that?

Apr 30, 2018 Audio & Broadcast

Modern life is full of distractions. Our brains are wired to listen out for sounds to warn us of danger, communicate with others and soothe us through music, but with so much noise competing for our attention, it can be overwhelming. Now technology is looking to the sounds of nature to help us live, work and play more effectively.

A new wave of directional and environmental audio solutions are helping even the noisiest of spaces to become harmonious hubs of work and delighting us through immersive experiences, all through the power of sound.

“As it turns out, our primordial sense of hearing is extremely well-adapted to survival outdoors but ill-adapted to the acoustics of the open office,” says Evan Benway, Director of Product & Product Owner, Habitat Soundscaping at Plantonic.

“Due to the types of environment in which Homo Sapiens evolved, we have an innate physical preference for certain natural settings and the visual, auditory and other sensory stimuli aassociated with them”. Science has long established that patients exposed to natural light or view of nature make fewer requests for pain medication and anyone exposed a northern hemisphere winter can attest to the detrimental effects on health and wellbeing from lack of sunlight – so why should it be any different with sound?

Efficient Environments

According to Plantronic’s Persona Research, 69% of office workers are dissatisfied with open office noise, with open office acoustics interfering with cognitive tasks like reading, reasoning, and accessing working memory.

And once distracted it takes employees an average of 23mins to refocus on their work, losing office efficiency and work output from employees. This research lead Plantronics to develop their Habitat Soundscaping solution for open plan workplaces.

Habitat Soundscaping brings the biophilic, or love of life, experience into the office, using sightsound, and science to reduce distractions and bridge the gap between modern life’s demands and our intrinsic human needs.

“We now spend 87% of our lives indoors and another 6% in the car. The built environment has become our habitat,” says Benway.

Habitat Soundscaping solution minimizes distractions and enables workers engaged in thoughtful, detailed work to stay in the zone, by dynamically adapting to the office environment, and delivering soothing sounds of nature through in-ceiling speech detector sensors and speakers.

Surf’s up

At ISE 2018 earlier this year, Sony demonstrated their latest venture into directional audio with their Sonic Surf VR. Combining audio technology with newly designed multi-channel speakers and specially developed software it simulates ambient sounds such as popping, moving, and partitioning sounds to create an interactive space where sounds appear to move around by themselves.

At ISE visitors were able to experience “the virtual sea” as if they were in the sea and playing with dolphins, surrounded by the squeaking sounds and echoes of bubbles in the water.

A second demonstration introduced a new way of appreciating art with visitor experiencing the combination of a visual image, Delacroix’s famous painting, “Liberty Leading the People”, accompanied with popping sounds such as shooting, bullet trajectory and horse footsteps that create the impression of the audience stepping inside the painting.

Sony used the sounds of dolphins at ISE to create a seaside immersion.

Combined with multilingual functions this technology can be easily adapted for learning environments and location-based entertainment like exhibitions, galleries, museums and corporate showrooms, without the need to consider background noise and interference.

Both Plantronics and Sony will be exhibiting at Integrate 2018, showcasing the Habitat Soundscaping and the Sonic Surf VR this 22-24 August on Stands K40 and C8 respectively. Evan Benway will also be sharing his insights in the Integrate Speaker program. You can register to attend Integrate for here.