WorldBeat: Hearing the world differently



Can we modulate the way we hear the world around us to make it more calming or to induce focus?

While technology is usually associated with causing stress, technology also has the potential to bring about calm. In particular, breathing usually speeds up with higher stress, but it can be slowed through a manipulation, and in so doing, it can help the person calm down. We are exploring a range of interventions to influence breathing without requiring any focused attention in order to be effective. In multiple projects, we have looked at dynamic composition of music, modulation of screen brightness, and headphone volume to create a seamless pulsating behavior, similar to breathing biofeedback, to indirectly influence breathing. Our preliminary analyses show promising results that such seamless modulation indeed have an influence on breathing rate and pattern.

In this project, we explore modulating insertion gain on a headphone in harmony with affective signals, particularly breathing rate. We study the influence of this dynamic change between “inside” and “outside” sources of sound to induce a sense of calmness. We experiment in simulated environments that resemble different situations such as a library, a busy street, and a fireplace.

We would like to thank Dan Gauger for giving us equipment and his thoughtful suggestions, including the project name. We would also like to thank Bose for making this project happen. 

Research Topics
#affective computing