Norwegian research group built a software to simulate the soundscape of the environmental noise before the construction of new infrastructures.

Imagine driving your car in a new big road, pushing the throttle and watching the traffic disappearing by your side like in a movie scene. Now imagine to walk along this new big road trying to have a chat with a friend. The more you talk the more you must shout. Finally imagine you live in a flat close to this new big road. You’re taking a nap but everything around you is noisy. Noise is a continuous presence in our life, buildings, roads, cars, planes.

We live in different soundscapes each characterized by a unique timbre that can influence our habits and wellness. The way they can modify our life depends from the mass and grade of noise. Maybe the situations I mentioned above are analyzed by planners and by engineers before building a new construction, surely trying to estimate the right way to attenuate the sound impact.

Nowadays noise pollution is still a cause of illness and death, there’s still a lot to do.

The norwegian research group SINTEF is trying to prevent this problem with the creation of a tool called MAUS. This software can simulate how a listener feels close to a sound source, through a sound-map model of the different surfaces combined with vehicles noise recordings. MAUS recreates an immersive sound path made by red lines which connects the listener to the environment. They call it visualising sound.

Researcher at SINTEF ICT looking out across a planned road project. Even though there are no cars yet, he can still hear the traffic. Photo: SINTEF ICT.
Researcher at SINTEF ICT looking out across a planned road project. Even though there are no cars yet, he can still hear the traffic. Photo: SINTEF ICT.

The researchers used a particular recording technique for the car by positioning microphones on the front and rear bumper. By simply wearing a pair of headphones we can listen to the environment before the construction of new infrastructures, a whole new approach to the projection of the city of the future. As SINTEF research group’s member Erlend Viggen said: “In this way it may be possible to avoid conflicts and expensive, subsequent modification work”.

Indeed this technology could be used by several persons such as local residents and road developers “one idea is that the authorities may be able to conduct thorough tests to compare alternative noise-reducing measures before a final decision is taken. It’s also possible that they might be interested in letting residents listen to different audio simulations so that they can have their say about which scenario seems to be the least troublesome”, says Viggen.

Unfortunately MAUS will never be made openly available, it’s a pity maybe each of us might improve the sound database, at the same time increasing the sense of belonging and mutual respect to the environment.

[Featured photo by Caleb George Morris]

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Carmen Canale

Contributor at sounDesign
Carmen Canale works as a freelance audio engineer and collaborates with Conservatorio G. Verdi of Milan for the development of audiovisual projects. She holds degrees in Literature and Electronic Music, and also writes about soundscapes for Pilltapes and gears for Tsinoshibar.