Sound of Smart Things

  • Design

    Sound design

  • Course

    The Sound of Smart Things

  • Coach

    Berry Eggen, Bart Hengeveld

  • Collaboration

    Marit Her, Randi Nuij, Alex de Kruijff, Jolie Smets, Remco Levenbach, Daan Noordman, Stan van Betteraij, Emmie Knoester, Rick Buijs, Evie van den Munckhof

And how they are made


The final assignment was executed within a large group. Everyone individually chose an object they preferred and notified the others about the choice to not have double objects. By doing this, we got a diverse group of objects not intentionally chosen together. This resulted in that, in a later stage, we explored the possibilities of the combination of these objects instead of starting with an idea in mind and choosing objects to enable this. Everyone observed their object individually. This was done by sitting at the Lucid bar during different moments of the day but also from memory and previous experiences at Lucid. Everyone made an object diary from these observations. Later, we discussed the observations to get an understanding of all the objects in the future smart system.

Later, we all brought our diaries and the first rules we could come up with for the decentralized system. The main purpose of the meeting was: “Now that we have selected our objects and have observed their function, how should we continue?”. The meeting started with a discussion of each (smart) object. What can each object know, if it would be a smart object? To structure the process of combining all different insights, we used role playing from the perspective of our selected objects. One individual – whose object did not participate in the scenario – played the role of a student in the morning, who is going to grab a cup of coffee. The other individuals played their own objects, looking at the current situation and speaking out loud what was happening to get a better impression of the possible information each object could gather. In this way, we saw how the different objects came into play during the scenario. We observed how some objects play a main role during specific parts of the day, while others are more continuously present. This also opened up towards a future scenario as we soon got inspiration of where and how objects could collaborate.

Before the video was created, every member of the group designed their own sounds according to the rules that were set for their object as we all wanted to implement our knowledge on sound design. As a group, we discussed the object sounds that would have to be included in the final video. The inspiration for these sounds could be drawn from the object’s material, and a certain type of personality that fit with the object could be included here. In retrospect, you may not recognize this in the sound design of all objects, because it was open to personal interpretation.

Every group of three or four people designed, shot and edited their own video for their own scenario. The three finished videos were eventually combined into one final video, where the volume of the audio was levelled and transitions between all different parts were added. At the end, an outro showcasing the different objects, their rules and their sound designers was added to include elucidation, fun and some extra content. My job was to design around the waste bin.


Learning points

Since my introduction to sound design I have always believed that there is a room for sound in every designed experience. Since sound is something in time, rather than in space, it provides the ability to inform (or any other use of sound) users in their peripheral. Putting that dimension into the world of connected products it can both be the best or the worst depending on the way it is designed. Connected products share data to each other, which is invisible to us humans. I think it is important that there is given shape to that invisible thing, since it is really important for the user to know what is happening with something that has such great value (especially in the 21st century where data has become the ‘new oil’).

When sounds are used to communicate from device to device, its purpose becomes less clear. Why chose such an inconvenient way of communication, as other types of channels can perform better? I think that that question is answered by the fact that these sounds inform people, rather than the devices (which can’t probably hear at all). Sounds should make the important communication between devices understandable and has therefore a guiding and informing role within Systems of smart things.

The problem is that the network of these products is growing and thus scale becomes a problem. Sound can easily become an annoying part of the experience, which totally defeats its purpose of helpful guider of attention. Therefore, it is important that designers pay attention to sound design within this internet of things context as I see its role as a necessity.

An earlier assignment in the course to showcase the use of sound to guide people towards the right room in a large building.


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