Audio-vision: Cooper Hewitt museum showcase multisensory design
"All design should be accessible, and all design should be sensory", says Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. That concept is the basis of Cooper Hewitt's latest exhibition: The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, which features a wealth of sound art and sound technology initiatives.
The exhibition includes work by more than 65 designers. The projects use touch, sound, smell, taste, sight, and other physical experiences to present innovations designed to help those with sensory disabilities. Audio solutions include Steven Landau's audio-tactile map, Sanne Gelisson's sound isolation system, and Vibebeat, which translates music into vibrations that are felt against the skin.
Also on display is Man Made Music's answer to "alarm fatigue" in hospitals - the incessant beeping that desensitises hospital staff to genuine emergencies. The audio branding agency have designed a sonic solution that communicates patients' vitals signs without the stress and confusion of traditional alarms.
These peaceful, ambient sounds give a trained doctor information about a patient's heart rate (indicated by a bass tone) and blood oxygen saturation (a higher note). The closer these two tones, the more problematic a patient's levels. A bird-like sound also communicates blood pressure, which is also accompanied by ambient sound and music, designed to lessen patient anxiety and provide masking.
Joel Beckerman, founder of Man Made Music, explains: “Right now, alarms are only designed to do two things: to scream for attention, which stresses patients out, creates cortisol reaction in the body, and makes them sicker. And the second thing it’s designed to do is prevent device manufacturers from getting sued. So all the devices scream as loud as they can for the smallest thing, specifically to get through the FDA. It’s putting the device at the centre of the picture rather than putting the patient at the centre.”
Beckerman's patent for the design is pending and his team are fine-tuning the product with healthcare professionals, prior to hospital testing.
The Senses: Design Beyond Vision is exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, from April 13th, 2018 until October 28th, 2018.
Header image source: Steven Landau