BEATHOVEN offers the possibility to for Deaf and Hard of Hearing to also enjoy music, even live.
Renderings of BEATHOVEN from the front and back, also showing colour suggestions.
The process has included a lot of research, embodied exploration, prototyping and testing.
Sketches showing the main functions of BEATHOVEN.
Haptic interface allows easy use while wearing it, and a personalized experience through the app.
What it does
BEATHOVEN is an innovation that offers an entirely new way of experiencing music, through vibrotactile sensations on the body. The main objective is to include otherwise music-excluded, such as Deaf and Hard of Hearing, but offers new music sensations to all.
Music is amazing and a great part of so many people’s lives, but there are people who are excluded from it. Music was originally created for listeners, but what does that mean for someone with hearing impairment? The BEATHOVEN product experience stemmed from a collaboration with Pariception and their product Good Vibrations. Through our own and Pariception’s research, we have found that vibrotactile stimulation can provide an effective replacement for hearing loss. The use of haptic technology has seen a huge rise in recent years, but we believe it has even more potential, not least when it comes to including more people in society.
How it works
BEATHOVEN has two different modes for experiencing music; it can be connected to a user’s phone via Bluetooth to stream music directly, or it can pick up live music directly via a microphone. This means that the product can be used anywhere and for any type of music. It can be used comfortably at home or brought along during a commute or to a live concert. An algorithm transposes the music down to fit the frequency range that the human body is able to perceive, but even though the music is compressed, no data will be lost and the full music will be conveyed through a richer and more detailed lower register. The product features five actuators: three on the chest and two in the neck, to which the music is distributed in different registers: low, mid, and high. The lower register is conveyed through a single actuator, and the mid and high registers each have two actuators which allows for stereo playback. It is operated through a user-friendly, haptic interface.
The BEATHOVEN design process was made up of three main parts. The first two dealt with understanding how music can be conveyed through vibrotactile sensations on the body, and knowing where on the body the vibrations should be conveyed to optimize the experience. To do this we have worked with a playful and embodied process, by ourselves and co-creating together with others. We have also included experts in relevant areas, as well as the people and users who we are designing for, into the design process. The third part was to design this experience into a meaningful product. We iterated between different types of sketching: on paper and with clay models. We also built lo-fi prototypes that were tested with users, as well as functional prototypes to work out technical details and the layout of internal components. We started with a wide and general scope, primarily on what the product should be and how it should be worn, rather than how it should look. We sought inspiration from different sources, such as the human body and vibrations, and since this is a completely new type of product we wanted to give it a unique expression. To do this we employed an artistic approach, where clay modelling was an important tool. To finalize and verify the design we used CAD and 3D-printing.
How it is different
BEATHOVEN is a completely new product: there are no other products that do the same thing. There are products that use haptic technology for conveying sounds, but they are limited in their scope. Some products convey powerful bass, but they are used in combination with speakers or headphones, and only enhance a listening experience. They cannot independently convey the whole music. BEATHOVEN, on the other hand, will be able to completely replace speakers and headphones and allow anyone to experience music in a new way, with or without using their hearing. This makes music more accessible, and includes more people into the experience. It includes not only people with hearing impairment, but anyone who wants to include more sensations in their music experience.
BEATHOVEN is an example of inclusive design, as it allows for new ways of experiencing music for everyone, thus contributing to social sustainability. This product could revolutionize the music industry, but to do so it first needs to get out on the market, and there is more research and development to be done. We need to build fully functioning prototypes to tinker with, to test with users, and to continue iterating on the design into a proof of concept. Furthermore, we will have to explore materials and get the design ready for production. We are also seeking partners who could help us realize production and distribution of the product.