To use sound to help interpret scientific data; to add sound effects or music to enhance the experience of something, such as a Web site.
Devices that "sonify" data have expanded beyond the well-known Geiger counter, which reveals radioactivity by clicking more rapidly as it gets closer to nuclear material. These devices appear in an array of settings, evaluating the structural integrity of large bridges, guiding the manipulation of surgical instruments during brain surgery, and more. Neuhoff, Kramer, and Wayand point out that sonification devices appear everywhere from anesthesiology stations to factory production-controls, stock-market trading floors, and data displays for the visually impaired. And, they say, the use of auditory displays will continue to escalate.
"Stop, Look, and Listen: The Growing Importance of Sound in Daily Life," AScribe Newswire, April 24, 2002
Thomas Dolby Robertson has been through some pretty major ups and downs. In the early 1980s, as Thomas Dolby, he was the master of the electro-pop music phenomenon, responsible for such classics as She Blinded Me With Science. Then he set about to 'sonify' the Internet, adding music and sound to the Web browsing experience until the dot.com bubble burst.
Nick Flaherty, "The golden age of wireless," Electronic Engineering Times UK, July 8, 2002
Furthermore, with the move toward multimedia, some PCs and engineering workstations are pushing beyond the relatively crude sound capabilities of most current machines. Silicon Graphics Inc.'s (Mountain View, CA) low-priced Iris Indigo 3D graphics workstation introduced last year, for example, was built from the ground up with real-time, compact disc-quality audio in mind. The system incorporates a Motorola 56001 digital signal processing (DSP) chip on the motherboard.
"I've seen a few examples of data sets where the addition of sound increases dramatically, what you can see in the data set," says Carol Peters, SGI's director of emerging applications. "It's like a marker, where the sound points out some aspect of the data to you and brings your attention to it, thereby causing you to be able to see it." SGI ships about 10M of sound samples with each Indigo and offers additional sound clips on CD-ROM that application developers can purchase. And Peters says she's been surprised by the response.
"People doing visualization on our machines want to put sound with it," she says. "We had talked with some number of people who were at least curious about adding sound, or were able to talk about various aspects of their software where sound would enhance the ability to interpret data," Peters relates. "But what we didn't expect is that when we came out with the Indigo, so many of them would immediately leap up and ask, 'OK, how do I do it? How do I sonify this program?'."
Wes Iverson, "The sound of silence," Computer Graphics World, January 1992