Charlie Phillips, Head of Documentaries at The Guardian, recently questioned the future of information dissemination. When readers are no longer hungrily consuming the written word, how does a news source maintain its audience? In order to tackle the on-going challenges of the population’s shrinking attention span and the downsizing of the user interface, The Guardian is placing increased emphasis on 90-second informative documentaries and podcasts to keep readers in-the-know.
Sound is another source that is rapidly gaining in popularity as a medium to deliver information. Just think, the one-second “whoosh” of an outgoing email really says, “the angry draft you wrote to your co-worker to blow off steam has unfortunately landed in the inbox of said co-worker” and the two note “ba-doop” of a text message is able to communicate “the Two Dancing Girls Emoji and the Smiling Face with Smiling Eyes Emoji” have been successfully sent to your mom.
Fast Company spoke to this topic best: “With the rise of smart objects, we’ve found that products increasingly need to communicate even without a screen, through things like light and sound patterns.” Let’s take a look at four noteworthy uses of sound (or wordless tongue, if you will) that help creatively deliver information to users.
The Sound of Football: In this Swedish Campaign, visually impaired soccer players were given equipment that allowed them to hear rather than see what was happening on the soccer field. In the experience, “a bell rings as a player approaches the ball, a cymbal means they’re close to the net, and a thumping drone signals an incoming player.” Can you guess the final score in this tech-enabled match against professional football players? 1-1.
Let’s think: How can sound be used in other experiences to deliver information that helps to equalize the playing field for the visually impaired?
Disorder: Interactive applications and video games are being increasingly used to provide a deeper look into mental illness. In Disorder, “a psychological 2D puzzle platformer,” players must traverse both light and dark worlds in order to fully understand the difficulty of living with the destructive and chaotic thoughts common of many psychological illnesses. The application relies heavily on user interface sounds and a thematic soundtrack to provide key cues to video game users about their trajectory through the immersive experience.
Let’s think a little more: Where else can sound make a difference in providing key information about the emotional states associated with stigmatized disorders?
Moff: A wearable technology for children that transforms ordinary products into extraordinary objects through sound. The Moff band picks up on wrist movement and interprets them into meaningful sounds, so children are led to imagine household products as toys. “Imagine holding a spatula and slicing the air with it. With Moff on your wrist you now have a sword!”
Let’s not rub this product in our parents’ faces. The holidays would’ve been a no-brainer. Too little, too late.
The Apple Watch: You’re probably sick of hearing about the Apple watch, I know. However, the continuing conversation surrounding Apple’s newest product doesn’t downplay its incredible use of sonic as a substitute for its teeny-tiny user interface. While designing the Apple Watch, Jonny Ive excitedly bragged about its newest user interface sounds, “You just press this button and it slides off, and that is just gorgeous,” he was saying…”But listen as it closes,” he said. “It makes this fantastic k-chit.”
Let’s think our hardest: Smell as a messenger for information is right on the heels of sound. The recently released iPad application ONotes offers “scent-augmented movies, books, photos and music.” Watch out visual, sonic and olfactory are charging full speed ahead. Will Apple be next to implement olfactory sensitivity into their products?
Maya Friedman is Account Executive at Made Music Studio. Talk to her on Twitter @mcfried7.