What for many might be considered traits of excellence and commodity,for manufacturers of unconventional cars has become an issue: silence.
What for many might be considered traits of excellence and commodity, for manufacturers of unconventional cars (electric and hybrid) has become a big problem. Their vehicles are too quiet!
Doesn’t make sense or…does it?
Well, if you look at the statistics, electric and hybrid cars cause 40% more pedestrian accidents than conventional cars and one of the main causes is the absence of sound (Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, 2017). Moreover, the walker has to be 74% nearer that car versus a combustion engine car to make sense of where the car is coming from. So as much as we all yearn for more silence, I’m sorry to announce but it’s not for the greater good this time.
I know, I too want the acoustic contamination to diminish, especially with those honks. Think of that person that honks a 0.000005 second after the light turns green. Come on!!
But let’s see the bright side. Sound designers and composers (look for Hans Zimmer working with BMW!) will make personalized sounds for each type of car. We will have a variety of new sounds, customized for each brand. Amazing right?
So there are new contexts where sound is needed. You can add it for security reasons or you can simply use it to embellish an experience. In either case, it’s a complex process that requires quite a lot of research.
Here’s an example: have you ever thought about making food taste better by adding sound to it? Yeah, it’s not a mistake, you read it just fine. Trust me. Sound enhancing sense of taste. Well, Finnish Air tried it with their food on board.
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane flight you’ve had a weird feeling when you’ve eaten the food onboard (or am I the only one here?). Food doesn’t quite feel the same as in a restaurant or when you cook it (or especially those overly abundant and tasty grandmother’s meals). Am I?
Well, a study from 2014 found out that our sense of taste on flights is altered by air pressure, humidity levels, and cabin noise volume. So the same food can taste quite differently in response to variations in environmental conditions. It makes sense, but you’ve never really thought about it, did you? I know I haven’t. Guilty as charged!
Finnair made a nice innovation here. They created a variety of sound ambiances to counteract these physical effects on food. For example, the low-frequency buzz sound of aerial cabins boosts bitter and umami tastes (this umami taste is the fifth basic taste, look it up) while it diminishes sweet and salt tastes. Therefore, they created special sound environments to counteract this effect.
Hint: high-pitched notes can induce those other tastes.
They really did a remarkable job here. They even added nature sounds from landscapes all over Finland. Now that’s a way to make the whole ride a nordic experience!
Wrapping it up
We are seeing new areas for sound development. Places that you never thought sound will be treated with such dexterity, now are becoming quite impactful thanks to their contribution. Sound has come to stay.
By Pavle Marinkovic on March 31, 2020
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (2017) retrieved from https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmpublic/automated/memo/aevb25.htm the 25th of February 2020.
Hear the taste: Finnair creates in-flight soundscapes to enhance flavors. Retrieved on the 21st of February 2020 de https://sound.surf/news/hear-the-taste-finnair-soundscapes-branding
Spence, C. (2017). Tasting in the air: a review. International journal of gastronomy and food science, 9, 10–15.
Rosenblum, L (2008). Quiet vehicles may pose greater risks to pedestrians, UCR psychologist finds. Retrieved from https://newsroom.ucr.edu/news_item.html?action=page&id=1803 on the 25th of February 2020.
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