Digital Nerd

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Touching sound

Our interactions with physical objects usually produce sound; this sound is tightly coupled with our actions and the character of the objects. Audio-Tactile is about designing sound of the same level of richness into digital devices; interactions in which you "do things with your hands" and get sound of both informative and expressive value.

What it is Audio-Tactile proposes that through touch and sound, functional activities can become an experience on the borders between task, instrument and game. Audio-Tactile consists of three explorations into the relationship between hands, ears and mobiles; in each, an audio-tactile interaction has been designed for a functional activity on a mobile device.

How it works The central Audio-Tactile exploration is "SonicTexting", a system for inputting text through gesture and sound. To use SonicTexting, you make smooth writing gestures with the "Keybong", a joystick-like device that fits in one hand. These gestures produce sounds of different types. SonicTexting enables writing a text message from inside your pocket using only sound.

Value/Potential The design explorations of Audio-Tactile reveal how sound can be connected to actions in a sophisticated manner; these insights have implications for the wider role of sound in interaction design. For mobile devices, audio-tactility suggests ways to design interactions of enhanced sensory and sensual quality, involving skill and pleasure. Interacting through sound and touch has the special benefit of taking the load off the eyes, which is especially advantageous in mobile situations.

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