No. 23

Miasma Field Modulator

By : Benton Ching

Entrant’s location : United Kingdom


What did you create?

The Miasma Field Modulator is a wearable audio synthesiser that turns air and noise pollution into horror-inspired soundtracks to steer users away from polluted routes. The Field Modulator uses audio augmented reality to create an auditory experience that steers people away from two major forms of environmental pollution using a single sensory modality. Inspired by sound design techniques in horror movies and games, the device provides citizens with an intuitive sense of exposure to imminent health risks in urban environments.

Why did you make it?

Air and noise pollution are two of the largest environmental impacts on health in cities. Through research and user interviews, I found that there is a strong correlation between air and noise pollution in cities. Further research revealed that on an individual level, one can minimise exposure to these pollutants by changing their routes. The challenge then became about finding ways of promoting route management that would reduce exposure to these pollutants.

How did you make it?

Audio synthesis on the device is done using Puredata running on a Bela microcontroller. The sounds produced are determined by three main factors. Firstly, the device takes in one's local GPS coordinates and compares them to information on NO2 and particulate matter levels obtained from the London Air Quality Network. The second layer of sound is produced by a particulate matter sensor on the front of the device. This provides real time feedback based on the immediate fluctuations of local particulate levels. The final layer of sound is produced by a pair of binaural microphones, which measure the amount of noise in the surrounding environment. One of the main challenges of interpreting the sonification of data is that it is often hard to draw a meaningful correlation between the sound and the data. As such, I looked into how viewer emotions are primed in horror films and games through sound as a basis for the sound design. In particular, I looked at the role of non-linear sound to induce a sense of discomfort or fear.

Your entry’s specification

Approx size: 8.5cm x 13cm x 5.5cm