sponsored by Google
[skills used: electronic prototyping, 3d modeling, model building, cmf exploration. in collaboration with morgan west]
google soundscape is a pair of headphones that aims to create a more humanistic way of listening to the world. through simple sensing technology, the sound is placed in and around your environment, and blends the listener, the sound, and the greater soundscape into one seamless experience.
"technology is progressing by itself. we feel possibilities. i don't want to go against the current. still, i am concerned by a deficient technology, it absorbs me, and I wonder if new cultural currents could emerge from this deficiency"
- ryuichi sakamoto, tokyo melody
the project began by exploring the idea of musicians playing the environment like an instrument.
gloves were rigged with photo-sensors, routed through audio cables. from this, the user could move their hands around the world, and listen to the light.
the more we talked, the concept of collaboration through technology became an important factor.
the form eventually took that of headphones. through basic mapping sensors, the headphones are able to understand the environment around the listener. then, this information can be used to place audio in the world, to create an intimate experience.
also, this spatial awareness allows you to not just block outside noise, but rather muffle the unpleasant sounds, and enhance the ones you enjoy.
the headphones took cues from googles more humanistic approach to materials, and so were made soft and comforting.
although wireless, there are still cords, and they function similar to buttons or dials for volume and track selection.
but by dangling by your chest, the interaction mimics that of tugging at the tassels of your hoodies, so it feels natural and fidgety.
the design was explored through simple cardboard mock-ups, more nuanced hand lathed cups, and finally 3D printed parts.
a variety of fabrics were tried, noting the color and feel and look. the cords were custom dyed to get the right balance of color.
the final prototype demonstrated the comfortable, almost clothing like feel of the headphones.
a magnetic display stand was also created to hold and display the headphones when not in use.