AuralSurface: Designing A Responsive Surface for Educational Multi-Use Spaces

Presented by: Matthew Wagner, Ivica Ico Bukvic

Originally conceptualized as a response to distractions in the workplace, AuralSurface is a responsive surface inspired by the need to control ambient noise created from everyday life in the office, while also serving as an adjustable separator that maintains a sense of open space. Further research has opened an area of interest to utilize AuralSurface in multi-purpose educational spaces, where the use of responsive acoustic partitions can play an effective role in noise reduction during high occupancy periods. AuralSurface seeks to reduce fatigue and distraction in educational spaces by controlling ambient noise disturbances. Its design allows it to autonomously deploy an acoustic material at specific locations when the perceived decibel levels are higher than normal. In addition to a physical response, the acoustic material may be seen as a visual cue once deployed. Those holding conversations may recognize this as a subtle sign to speak more softly or to take a conversation to another area. AuralSurface, a panelized surface, is an otherwise seemingly typical modular system. For performance and comfort, the responsive surface optimizes interior environments by adapting to the changing reverberation rhythms of voices and footsteps. AuralSurface can also be parametrically calibrated to a desired acoustic setting, which allows for increasing or decreasing acoustic dampening depending on the needs of the interior space and its occupants. Additionally, our research is testing the capabilities of an augmented reality design tool, for real-time, immersive data visualization experience within a virtual space. Through a virtual environment, we are able to view a digital prototype in a space at full size. The information visualized and collected assists in the design refinement of our digital prototype. The virtual environment provides a better understanding of how the responsive surface responds to multi-sensory input (proximity and sound), as well as how it performs in various spaces. We will identify the purposes and explain the effectiveness of using a responsive acoustic surface in an educational multi-use space. We will explain the inherent characteristics of acoustic materials and how they justify decisions when evaluating the design of a responsive surface. We will help to recognize the need for sensory automation, and understand the functions of micro controllers, sensors, motors, and other mechanisms used to construct a responsive surface. We hope to stimulate ideas leading to the design of a responsive surface for a specific application or experiment.