Signål is an audio processing device that was inspired by the enhanced visual sense of the deaf community.
It is a wristband that processes sounds in the vicinity through microphones and translates them into visualizations that can be a poetic representation of sound surroundings, but can also be used to catch optic attention to audible warning signals. Especially loud sounds are intensified by a vibration of the wristband. Signål aims to add another layer to the visual world of the hearing impaired.
Two microphones ensure the spatial recognition of surrounding sounds. The background sounds will be displayed as outer circles, exceptionally loud sounds such as sirens are displayed as individual shapes that are defined by four different parameters.
The volume limit that defines if a sound is a background noise or an exceptionally loud noise is relative to the surrounding. It automatically adjusts to the average level of volume in the vicinity. This ensures that coming from a very quiet surrounding to a loud one your wristband won’t be vibrating all the time—just very loud sounds, relative to the current sound surrounding will be submitted through buzzing.
If the sounds exceed a certain volume (the inner circle of the visualization), the wristband vibrates. The vibration level can be seen in two ways: on the one hand it is an intensification of a very loud sound; it makes it more experiencable. On the other hand it is an additional indicator of a possibly dangerous situation. Since warning signals are mostly audible it can be a very useful tool especially for a deaf person.
Signål is a product of the course Inclusive Design, which took part at the contest for Microsoft Research Design Expo 2015. It was developed and designed by Marie Claire Leidinger, Nushin Yazdani and Julian Thiel, supervised by Boris Müller at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences in the summer semester 2015.