New 'hearing' maps are real conversation starters

Mar 05, 2010
New 'hearing' maps are real conversation starters
An audibility map showing the intelligibility that would be experienced by a listener in every part of a room with a lot of echoes.

Innovative sound-mapping software based on human hearing has been developed to help architects design out unwanted noise.

The new generates audibility maps of proposed room designs.

The EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) project has been developed at Cardiff University.

These maps show hotspots where conversations would not be intelligible if the room were busy. Architects can then adjust their designs to reduce until the hotspots are eliminated and audibility is maximised.

Software already exists to help architects predict how a building will perform acoustically for an audience in places like theatres and concert halls. This new software is specifically designed to improve the acoustic design of indoor spaces where a large number of people meet, chat and interact. It could be used for business as well as social purposes, for example, in designing open-plan offices, cafes and reception areas.

"A lot of work has been done to understand acoustics in places used for public performances," says Professor John Culling, project leader. "But little has been done to improve the acoustics of day-to-day meeting-places, even though this would help all of us in our working and social lives."

The new software also produces results much more rapidly than other acoustic software. The key to its capabilities is the unprecedented sophistication and computational efficiency of the unique that underpins it.

The equation has been built up using the project team's cutting-edge research looking at how people take in sound through both ears as it travels round busy rooms and how noise sources are affected by each other. This means it can accurately predict acoustic quality at every point in an indoor space where people are likely to gather and talk.

The architect will be able to call their proposed design onto their computer screen and run the software, which will ask them to specify the locations of the main sound sources in the room. An audibility map will then automatically be produced and the architect will be able to change the room's dimensions, its shape and/or the materials to be used, until hotspots are eliminated. This means that rooms could be tailor-made to suit their purpose. The work will also make a significant difference to areas where audibility is important, such as rail and airport announcement waiting areas. In emergency situations such clarity could be vital in saving lives.

The new software is intended to be used in conjunction with standard architectural computer programs widely employed in room design.

The research will also help in the future development of hearing aids and cochlear implants.

"Our objective now is to identify and work with a software company to help us develop the software further and market it," says Professor Culling. "Hopefully it will be available for architects to use within the next 12 months."

Explore further: Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

Related Stories

Hearing the words beneath the noise

Aug 05, 2009

Hearing aids and cochlear implants act as tiny amplifiers so the deaf and hard-of-hearing can make sense of voices and music. Unfortunately, these devices also amplify background sound, so they're less effective in a noisy ...

Scientists Recreate Bach’s Forgotten Horn (w/Video)

Jun 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cutting-edge computer modelling software has enabled a long-lost, trumpet-like instrument to be recreated - allowing a work by Bach to be performed as the composer may have intended for the ...

Virtual applications reach out to real world

Aug 14, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- European researchers have developed a series of very clever tools to break through the bottlenecks stalling the widespread adoption of virtual reality. But the compelling applications designed for the system ...

How to turn blueprints green

Feb 24, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Even in today's increasingly energy-conscious world, it's rare for the subject of energy efficiency to be addressed in the early stages of designing a new building, whether it's a single-family ...

Modeling the Sound of Music

Oct 03, 2005

If a musical instrument has never been built before, how can you know what it will sound like? That's the question UC Berkeley graduate student Cynthia Bruyns is answering with Vibration Lab, software she's designing to simulate ...

Recommended for you

Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

12 hours ago

The Google Android platform grabbed the majority of mobile phones in the US market in early 2014, as consumers all but abandoned non-smartphone handsets, a survey showed Friday.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Auxon
not rated yet Mar 05, 2010
There is a podcast and video (slideshow) interview, with Professor John Culling, available at: http://www.epsrc....map.aspx

More news stories

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...