Design

There doesn’t have to be a tech “solution” to everything

Case in point: The sun-blocking umbrella drone.  One could just carry an umbrella around, but no, a couple of tech bros came up with something spectacular:

WARNING: Lower the volume on your device!

Make that spectacularly awful. Says Sasha Lekach, Mashable, the “annoying hum and buzz renders the entire concept useless.”  And what is its intended use? Why “[i]t’s intended for golfers on sunny greenways.” Of course it is.

The umbrella drone is as likely to exist as Uber’s flying taxis.

How to deal with distracting conversations in an open plan office

Applying “local acoustic treatment” in open plan offices, says the Acoustical Society of America, “may be able to provide relief in the future.”  What is “local acoustic treatment?” Science Daily reports:

To make these environments less noisy, while still providing acoustic support for speaking and listening, researchers are creating small “acoustic islands” using high-back chairs and retroreflective ceilings to direct sound to help you hear your own conversations — not others’ — better.

Or we could look back–when life was quieter–and embrace these things called “offices.”  One hopes that eventually the cost of mitigating the noise in open plan offices makes them so untenable that reason prevails and people can have a small quiet space to get their work done.

Should appliance makers pay more attention to sound?

Oh look, an orchestra.

We would say yes, but no to singing washing machines.  While we appreciate sound artist and designer Yuri Suzuki’s desire to “‘propose ways for sound to not turn into noise but rather help enhance harmony and comfort” in our surrounds,” can we suggest that designers consider reducing the whirrs and rumbles of domestic appliances, allowing us to enjoy our homes in quiet?

On adding sound to electric cars: a modest proposal

Rod Liddle, The Spectator, puts a poison pen to paper in a plea to the powers that be, pleading that electric cars be kept quiet even if they hit a few pedestrians.

While we understand Liddle’s dislike of unnecessary noise, his proposal is a bit harsh, though to his credit he doesn’t carve out an exception for himself as he writes:

[S]crap the noise-making device idea and let the pedestrians die. I am one of them and am fully prepared to take that risk. Let them die.

 

 

 

Tips on fixing annoying noise issues at home

 

Photo credit: FWStudio from Pexels

Nancy Mitchell, Apartment Therapy, offers tips on how to quiet five annoying noises at home, from squeaky floorboards and a creaky door to a noisy radiator.  Click the link to learn about what you can do to make your home a quieter, relaxing oasis.

Using “thick data” to make a smart city

 

Photo credit: IK’s World Trip licensed under CC BY 2.0

Adrian Smith, The Guardian, writes about Barcelona, a “pioneering Smart City,” that has been using sensors in various city infrastructure along with citizens via mobile devices “to monitor and anticipate urban phenomena in new ways, and, so the argument goes, efficiently manage urban activity for the benefit of ‘smart citizens.’”

Enter the residents living around Plaça de Sol, a popular square that has become, for residents, a bit too popular, especially with bars, restaurants, hotels, and tourists.  And with the addition of more bars, restaurants, and tourists, comes more noise, always. So back in 2017, a group of technology activists got in touch with residents and started a project under which residents were given “tools to measure noise levels, compare them with officially permissible levels,” with the aim of reducing noise in the square.

And what followed shows how complicated the embrace of thick data and citizen engagement can be, as the residents’ desire to reduce noise has to be considered along with the needs of bar and restaurant owners.  As a city councilman pointed out:

Beyond economic issues are questions of rights to public space, young peoples’ needs to socialise, neighbouring squares worried about displaced activity, the Council’s vision for Gràcia, and of course, the residents suffering the noise.

Click the link above to read this fascinating article.

Quieter kitchens are possible

Photo credit: Bill Wilson licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article is about making commercial kitchens quieter but the same principles apply to home kitchens.

Noise from blenders, mixers, and clanging pots and pans is loud enough to cause hearing damage.

We should probably put in our earplugs before kitchen appliances, and shouldn’t turn up the music loud enough to be heard over them!

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

Technological solution no substitute for governmental action

Introducing open window noise cancellation technology. The Daily Mail (sigh, we know) reports that “scientists” have created “[a] window that can reduce noise pollution by 50 per cent, even when open.” If you click the link, be prepared to fight through the visually noisy Daily Mail site to get to the short answer.  Namely, researchers essentially are using “active noise control” technology like that “found in many high-end noise cancelling headphones.” Makes sense, as do the claims that this device–which the developers claim uses very little electricity–will save money as people can open windows again to help cool a space rather than rely on air conditioning.

Technology is great, and if this device works as claimed, no doubt many people will gratefully buy them. But maybe we should be demanding that our local governments fulfill their responsibility to manage our cities and towns by regulating noise instead of resorting to the gadget du jour? Because this solution can only be enjoyed by those lucky enough to have the means to employ it, or, as Futurism put it: Noise-Cancelling Windows Are Perfect For People Already Rich Enough To Find Quiet in the City.