Enhanced spacial awareness combined with active noise cancellation

April 2022, Sound in Industrial Design

The “Sound in Industrial Design” course at Umeå Institute of Design represents a singular and exciting intersection of the Interaction Design and Advanced Product Design programs, focusing on exploring sounds in unique auditory experiences in industrial and commercial products. Within this setting, our team embarked on a four-week project to develop “aware,” a product designed to improve spatial awareness for urban runners. “Aware” offers a sophisticated sensoric system and algorithm that combines high-quality audio with noise cancellation and an innovative passthrough feature for critical sounds, ensuring runners will stay alert to their surroundings while enjoying their music. This product features an integration of optional earphones and a wearable sensor.

The sensor is designed to alert users to nearby moving objects with distinct sound signals placed in a 3D audio space, enhancing the runner’s safety without detracting from the audio experience. This solution was developed in response to the rise of active noise cancellation technology in wireless headphones, which, while providing an undisturbed listening experience, can inadvertently isolate wearers from critical environmental sounds, such as the approach of nearly silent electric vehicles. The challenge posed by active noise cancellation – specifically, the increased risk of overhearing electric cars, busses, or scooters – inspired our team to address these safety concerns while learning about the production of 3D soundscapes.

On a personal note, this project highlights the collaborative strength and creativity in the Advanced Product Design and Interaction Design programs at UID. It exemplifies the powerful synergy that can be achieved when hardware and software designers work closely together, each informing and enhancing the other’s work through their individual perspectives and skills.

User Interface