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Globe.fm -^

Explore the world through sound.

Sound Design, tutoring with Thomas Degn, Advanced Product Design Programme at Umeå Institute of Design and Andreas Estensen, professional sound designer, 2021

Brief -^

The overall aim of the course is to gain an increased understanding, awareness and experience of how sound can be utilised to enhance the design experience of the form language and user interface of a product.

Approach -^

Triggered by the inability to travel due to the ongoing pandemic, we chose a topic that we could all relate to: Fernweh. This allowed us to use this metaphor to built a concept of a world radio that allowed us to move forward with quick iterations and experiments within a fast-paced process. Inspired by the power of ambience sounds and how it can let us forget the world around us, we combined these two and discovered the opportunities of interactive form paired with sound design during this project.

Focus
Sound design, tangible Interaction Design, user-centred Design

My Role
Ideation, rapid prototyping, model making, animation & visualisation

Result -^

Globe.fm is a tangible design concept that enables users to discover the world through sound in an explorative and playful way. It allows users to find hidden places, return to familiar ones, or simply explore, by listening to real-time ambient noise. The sounds can transport the user to spots they have fond memories of or spark imagination of what a place could be like. Therefore, the metaphor of a radio is used, both in terms of the physical appearance and its usage. The dynamic nature of live sounds in combination with the possibility to tune into different places allows for an ever-changing explorative experience.

->Imagine being transported to the Brazilian rainforest or a Sicilian beach, or evoking memories of your trip to China by zooming into a busy street market in Shanghai.<-

Interactive Wanderlust -^

Sound plays a big role in how we perceive the world. Sound helps us understand and connect experiences, trigger memories, impact our mood and spark imagination. We wondered if we could design a product that would let you experience sound in a new way. Inspired by the term Wanderlust, which can be translated as a strong desire to travel, we explored how we could fulfil people’s longing to discover places in an alternative way. 

Experience Globe.fm -^

For this reason, we designed Globe.fm, a radio that allows people to experience the world through real-time sound based on the selected location. Reminiscent of a traditional radio, Globe.fm lets users browse through different sound channels, to find one that best suits them. Rather than selecting a radio station, Globe.fm lets the user choose a location on the world map. In addition, the combination of gestural and visual layers helping the user to navigate, further enriches their experience.

The process of designing Globe.fm -^

The decision to design an object which allows people to travel the world through sound did not merely come from our own interest. Ethnographic user research, including interviews and customer journeys helped us to understand what the desires of people are that listen to ambient nature sounds. We learned why, when, and what they are listening to on a regular basis.

After proving our concept, we explored the interaction of this tangible object together with the visualisation. Multiple iterations were done to end up with the desired intuitive and playful interaction. In order to imagine how the user would explore the world through sound, we mapped possible soundscapes to a world map. This helped us narrow down the scope of the sound set we wanted to work with while providing the groundwork for the next step, in which we were exploring tangible user interactions.

Finding the right interaction -^

In order to imagine how the user would explore the world through sound, we mapped possible soundscapes to a world map. This helped us narrow down the scope of the sound set we wanted to work with while providing the groundwork for the next step, in which we were exploring tangible user interactions. We used an Arduino to build several interactive screen prototypes to verify and validate the world view with the control and sound.

We used this product as a chance to rethink commonly used interaction modalities and applied them in an explorative way. A challenge was to find an intuitive solution to navigate through the abstract visual soundscape. The user should be able to perceive affordances without having to consider how to use the object. During iteration sessions, we built multiple prototypes with different tangible inputs and tested them afterward. We found out that the sphere input together with the visualisation proved to be very intuitive and even playfully encouraged exploration.

World map bias -^

We decided to move the world map, with the selection pixel being static. This seemed the most natural, as we got immediate feedback from rotating the sphere, but also to address some world map bias that we noticed due to Europe being in the center. To ensure that every user could identify with the world visualisation, we ran through different map projections to mitigate the map distortion.

The form of Globe.fm -^

With our previous iterations in mind we decided on a form that has the overall appearance of a radio as we know it but also to let the interaction and appearance awake something new and exciting.

Reflection -^

Due to the pandemic, we split the different tasks, which made collaboration a bit difficult, especially when combining sound files and video footage. Since we only had two weeks to come up with an idea and develop it, we had to test our concepts quickly in order to fail and move on. We all worked very efficiently and pushed ourselves, which made working in such a fast-paced environment very enjoyable. I appreciated that we all still had time to experiment and explore new tools or rediscover old ones during this project.

Colophon – Linda Kraft © 2021