This Prototype Devices Help Those with Hearing Loss Listen to Music
University of Malaga researchers have come up with assistive tech that enables wearers to listen to music through the sense of touch.
University of Malaga researchers developed a prototype device that enables people with hearing loss to listen to music through touch. Their technology could lead to a portable terminal and be used with cell phones, allowing the user to take it to a concert, among other places.
The device features an audio-tactile algorithm that uses "tactile illusions" to convert monophonic music from MIDI files into tangible stimuli based on vibrations. "It's like 'hacking' the nervous system to receive a different response to the real stimulus sent," the team says. This process is like "mapping music" since these files can play and produce sound while also providing "symbolic representations."
Existing solutions cannot validate the correlation between emotional response to music and its vibrotactile version. As a result, the researchers introduced a tactile illusion arrangement that boosts and extends the musical features' spectrum, implementing dynamics to the vibration in the form of movement, changes of direction and location. "It is a challenging process since the perceptible frequency range of the skin is lower than that of the auditory system, which may cause the loss of some musical features," they note.
Over 50 volunteers participated in an experiment with the device, concluding that the tactile illusions arrangement evokes more positive emotions than negative types. In addition, they are more agreeable and stimulating than the audio, causing a varied emotional response than what comes from the original music. The team is currently developing a second model while conducting additional experiments.