Through contextual interviews, we discovered that deaf individuals actively 'feel' music by listening to it at maximum volume, making it uncomfortable for others around them. They do this by feeling music's vibrations either in an acoustic setting like a large room or by touching a speaker that is emitting sound. Our solution is a haptic necklace that transposes music into tactile sound to enhance how the deaf perceive music. The PULS8 wearable creates the resonance that is typically experienced in live musical settings. This wearable rests on the listener's chest (similar to how headphones rest) and creates vibrations, which are felt throughout the body. PULS8 is a new way to perceive and create music outside of traditional audio devices.
PULS8 was created in collaboration with Christy Yang and Ian Dowling at the Art Center College of Design. This project was completed in 2014.
Kevin Chang: UX, UI, DR, Product Design [wearable]
Christy Yang: UX, UI, Processing
Ian Dowling: Product Design [wearable]
We interviewed musical aficionados, deaf individuals, and leaders in the Los Angeles Agency on Deafness.
PULS8 is designed for deaf and hearing individuals who enjoy listening to music. Through our initial research, we found that there is a misconception that deaf individuals do not enjoy listening to music. Through our wearable device, the deaf and hearing and able to share a musical listening experience. Our solution addresses the need for a musical experience that is inclusive of the deaf rather than exclusive.
"Sound carries a lot of guilt, it can be really uncomfortable for the people around you." -Jacques P.
"Music and memories are symbiotic" -Marcello R.
"I can feel something without experiencing its consequences." -Noel E.
"When I have nothing to distract me, that's the purest form of my love for music." -Tetsugaku S.
"Hearing aids make wearing headphones really uncomfortable." -Jeffery
We produced several iterations of four primary interaction models- Sync, Discover, Create, and Play. Additional screens explored the concept of a meter which could sense the decibel in an environment and equalize the music being played. The sync gestures and musical visualizations became key in shaping how users experienced PULS8 through their phones.
In attempting to visualize tactile sound, we found cymatics to be a visible translation of sound. In cymatics, different patterns emerge depending on the geometry of the surface and the driving frequency.
A 'Play' screen synchronizes shifting cymatic imagery with haptic feedback, which is transmitted through the PULS8 wearable. Music's physical phenomena is visualized through the Play screen while the listener feels it.
PULS8 intends to serve the audiophile community, which includes both hearing and non-hearing individuals. Our system profits from the rising popularity of bass-heavy music within the deaf community. This music is popular among these individuals due to the intense vibrations from bass and percussion instruments, which are felt through their sense of touch.
The PULS8 APP synchronizes music in real-time. Once a track is selected, listeners are able to share their discovery with friends. This interaction is synonymous with how people split a pair of ear buds to share a song in the moment.
While the iPhone is perfect for listening, the iPad allows artists to craft new tactile experiences. We drew inspiration from MIDI controllers with touchpad interfaces. The nature of the screen makes creation dynamic and compact, allowing artists to manipulate and modify their music improvisationally.
The PULS8 system is the only musical listening and creating experience that is inclusive of both deaf and hearing individuals. Currently, listening devices are designed exclusively for the hearing. PULS8 makes it possible for the deaf to experience music in a non-intrusive way. The social benefit of our system is the connection it enables between hearing and non-hearing individuals.