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Augmenting Urban Soundscapes

Technology Overview

A noise problem in the urban environment in many countries including Singapore starts with a noise source such as a stream of traffic on a highway, MRT track and other sources due to human activities. The noise is transmitted through a path and then arrives at the receiver. The noise will be perceived as a problem when the noise levelis too high as to be a nuisance to the receiver. The severity of the problem depends on the strength of the noise source (such as heavy or light traffic) or the length of the path, that is, how large is the separation between the noise source and the receiver. This issue will cause short term and long term issues such as dissatisfaction, reduced life quality and poor health. The soundscape approach, a new paradigm to rethink the traditional noise control approaches, provides a holistic perspective of the perceived acoustic environments within contexts. Unlike the conventional noise perspective, soundscape design aims not only to reduce sound levels but concentrates on what sounds are appropriate in a place. Augmenting Urban Soundscape (AUS) project from NTU aims to develop virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) systems for simulation and auralization of the urban soundscape.

Technology Features & Specifications

In the AR demo, the team has designed an application for Microsoft HoloLens for playback of natural sounds and simulation of noise sources as illustrated in Figure 2 (attached). It is designed that user can move the locations of sound sources around in space. These movable and static sound sources aim to demonstrate the effectiveness of attentional and spatial masking approach compared to traditional energetic masking approaches. The hardware setup built at NTU includes a set of equalized open back headphones with HoloLens for playback of high fidelity 3D spatial sound. The device is designed to operate as an evaluation tool for soundscape and urban noise mitigation by simulating realistic sounds from different virtual sources mimicking the real soundscape architectural designs.

Potential Applications

This technology went beyond the traditional approach of noise abatement method and utilising a novel and inventive soundscape approach. This novel design not only directed to reduce noise level but it also filters the sound which passes the pleasing desired sounds and blocked undesired sounds from listener’s context. This technology can be used when the subject does a certain outdoor activity and wants to enjoy the activity without the noise pollution. NTU see the potential of this technology and confident that it could be potentially be used, adopted and deployed in many modern urban environments in the world including Singapore. Once the research outcome gets matured, we believe that it will bring a new concept of smart living that not only can improve quality of life but it will eventually improve resident’s health quality as well.

Customer Benefits

The user of this technology will be able to enjoy the outdoor activity without noise pollution that sometimes inherent in the urban environment.

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