The Softness of Things

Design for Humanity :: (Selective) Hearing


The goal for this week was to design for humanity.  The original framework was along the lines of designing for a developing country or the disabled.  There are whole classes devoted to designing for specific disability, as well as Solar Design and Design for Unicef.  Due to the one week time constraint, I found it more appealing to find a demographic that is accessible to American culture.
Martha Nussbaum’s Sex & Social Justice establishes a framework for universal freedom.  I do not care to summarize all of her key issues, but my inspiration stems from her inclusion of emotional freedom.  Her definition includes “not having one’s emotional develop[ment] blighted by fear or anxiety.”  This conjures images of Darfur and Myanmar, but it exists in places where physical violence and oppression are not prevalent.

I chose to design for those in verbally abusive relationships.  I think we’ve all experienced a verbal assault.  In many cases, the assailant rationalizes his or her own experience as the victim.  (Selective) Hearing is a conceptual device that could break the cycle.

If angry rants were automatically tuned out of your hearing, your aggressor would have no choice but to speak to you calmly and respectfully for you to actually hear them.  The device itself serves as an objective evaluation on the verbal exchange, so the victim is not blamed for not listening to the aggressor.


How would it work?

The ideal design is a discreet device placed in the ear.  Others would not notice, and your privacy is protected.  For my diagrams I use a larger, hearing aid design, just to get my point across.

When dialog is detected by the microphones, the audio is fed to a speech analyzer that runs a series of checks on the content.  The user would be able to configure the settings with on-board software (ideally from a blue tooth connected cell phone).  These settings could detect inflections and tone as well as derogatory statements, racial slurs, etc.  Parts of the speech that do not pass filter tests are replaced with selected sound effects (woodpecker, birds tweeting, squeeky shoes, etc).  As an added feature, the user may toggle an ambient mode, where ocean sounds or soothing music is played in ear until the recognized voice has finished speaking.

Technical Considerations

To run the analysis of speech content, there will most likely be transduction of speech to text for analysis.  This will cause a delay to process, so the earphones will inverse phase of the microphone to properly noise cancel the speech until it is approved by the earpiece.  For practicality, there should be selectable modes (Bypass, Alert, Argument) so as not to delay wanted information.

More to come.


speak up

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site.

Subscribe to these comments.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

*Required Fields