Hearing impaired people will be able to hear music through the sense of touchthanks to a pioneering prototype devised by researchers froml Department of Electronics of the University of Malagabelonging to the R&D group ‘Electronics for instrumentation and systems’.
It’s about a audio-tactile algorithm that, through the use of ‘tactile illusions’, allows the translation of monophonic music into tangible stimuli, based on vibrations. “It’s like ‘hacking’ the nervous system so that a different response is received than the actual stimulus sent,” they point out.
“What we want to achieve in the long term is that people who can’t hear can ‘listen’ to music,” says Paul Remache, a researcher in the PhD program in Mechatronic Engineering, lead author of this study, who insists on the power of music to influence mood, as well as its possibilities as a therapy for mental disorders and pain treatment.
The result would be a portable terminal that could even be taken to a concert, since this prototype, according to what they say, will be easily transferable to technological devices such as mobile phones in the future.
map the music
The algorithm developed by this young researcher, together with UMA professors Andrés Trujillo and Fernando Vidal, is capable of converting the characteristics and musical structures extracted from MIDI files –Musical Instrument Digital Interface- on ‘vibrotactile stimuli’.
“It’s something similar to mapping music”, explains Remache, who adds that it’s possible because this type of file, in addition to being able to reproduce and generate sound, includes ‘symbolic representations’.
Current models do not guarantee the correspondence between the emotional response to music and the vibrotactile version. Faced with this, what these UMA engineers propose is to make adjustments to the ‘tactile illusions’ to improve and broaden the spectrum of musical characteristics, adding dynamics to the vibrations in the form of movement, changes of direction and location.
“This is a challenging process, since the frequency range perceptible from the skin is lower than that from the auditory system, which could cause the loss of some musical characteristics” they explain.
different emotional response
The first experiments carried out, in which nearly fifty volunteers have participated, show that these arrangements for ‘tactile illusions’ evoke more positive than negative emotions. They are also perceived as more pleasing and stimulating than audio, evoking a different emotional response from the original music.
Intelligent instrumentation and application in Health
This first prototype has been presented at the ’11th International Workshop on Haptic & Audio Interaction Design’ (United Kingdom) -the largest international event specialized in these areas of study- after its publication in the scientific journal ‘LNCS’. Currently, the UMA researchers are working on a second model and continue with the experiments.
The research is the result of Paul Remache’s doctoral thesis, which won first prize in the second UMA ‘Thesis Talk’ contest, and is part of the National Plan project ‘Intelligent Instrumentation and Application in Health’.
Paul Remache is a researcher at the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica (Ecuador) and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Mechatronics Engineering program at UMA through a specific agreement between the University of Málaga and the universities of Ecuador: Tecnológica Indoamérica, Técnica de Manabí and Técnica del Norte, as well as with the Ibero-American Postgraduate University Association (AUIP), for the development of a training program for doctors in the area of engineering and technical sciences.