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Enhanced experience through the sounds of body and movement

Tomoko Hashida
Assistant Professor, Department of Intermedia Art and Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

When the sounds of physical movements such as the loud stomping of footsteps and accelerating heartbeats are inserted in movies and dramas, aren’t we, the viewers, overcome with an unconscious feeling of urgency and tension? Rather than the footsteps, because the sound of heartbeat is something we don’t usually expect to encounter in everyday life, where does this feeling come from? Is it because we are usually ignorant to these sounds, and in fact happen to be beings that were born highly sensitive to sounds of the body and movement? Some works and systems that may provide answers to these questions, or conversely, may throw further doubt on the matter, are on display throughout Tokyo this summer. This time I would like to introduce two of these exhibitions that let us have the experience of unconsciously thinking about the sounds of our own bodies and movement.

The first is “empathetic heartbeat (1)”, which has been on display at ICC Open Space 2013 since the end of May. In the display there is a stethoscope and headphones, and when you sit at the desk with a monitor in front of you, you are then instructed to put the stethoscope to your own chest. When you pick up the sound of your heartbeat well, a video starts. Beginning with primary school children in a running race, various videos of tense situations are played, and gradually, your own heartbeat can be heard as if it was that of the people in the videos. Then, you unconsciously begin to identify with the people through the sound of your heartbeat. At first, I had some difficulty finding a place where I could hear my own heartbeat well, and when I started thinking if that was my own heartbeat and if the heart producing those sounds was working properly, my heart beat a little faster, making me think about their existence. Then later on, by sharing my heartbeat with the people in the video, I expanded the interesting world of unconsciously imagining other people’s tense feelings and the movement of mind, something that I had never experienced up until now.

Empathetic heartbeat (Photo courtesy of Junji Watanabe)

The second is “EchoSheet (2)” of “The Studio-Extend Your Real World-.” From July 3rd, it is exhibited in the laboratory for new media 12th exhibition at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. This uses an easel with drawing paper on it and writing materials, and when you write or draw pictures, the sound of the writing and drawing is amplified and sent out of speakers in real time. Despite this being a comparatively simple setup, for example, when used during a task of tracing kanji characters, research results show that more characters can be written than when using normal writing instruments, suggesting that this system possesses the characteristic of making people unconsciously want to write more characters and drawings. In this exhibition, various types of writing utensils such as pens, coloured pencils and crayons are prepared and many people were enjoying trying the various things in the exhibition, perhaps because of the changing sound of writing utensils they used.

The first exhibition I introduced is media art, and the second system can be taken to be a type of engineering system such as augmented human/augmented reality. Various approaches like these works and research may be symbolic of the deep and interesting theme of “sounds of body and movement.”

EchoSheet(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and Naemura Laboratory, the University of Tokyo)

Related links

ICC Open Space 2013 http://www.ntticc.or.jp/Exhibition/2013/Openspace2013/index_j.html
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation Permanent Exhibition Laboratory for New Media 12th Exhibition “The Studio-Extend Your Real World-” http://miraikan.jp/medialab/12.html

(1) Hideyuki Ando+Junji Watanabe+Masahiko Sato
(2) Kim Junghyun+Kaori Ito+Tomoko Hashida+Tomoko Otani+Takeshi Naemura

Tomoko Hashida
Assistant Professor, Department of Intermedia Art and Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

Graduated from the Department of Musicology, Faculty of Music, Tokyo University of the Arts and completed her doctorate (interdisciplinary information) at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies. Started her current position after working as a project researcher at the University of Tokyo. Is involved in research of media contents technology for enhancing real-world experiences. Major awards include the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Innovative Technologies (September 2012), the Virtual Reality Society of Japan Young Researchers Award (March 2012), and the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers HC Award and MVE Award (December 2011, October 2011), etc.