The sound shirt: A discussion for S&P in Intro Psych

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When we cover sensation and perception in Intro Psych, we commonly discuss each sense in turn with most emphasis put on vision and hearing. Some of us even discuss synesthesia, a sort of mixing of the senses where a person might, for example, see different colors upon hearing different sounds.

It is pretty common for us to use one of our senses to supplement or replace another sense. For example, we may turn on captions while streaming a movie or television program, using vision to supplement sound. For the blind and vision impaired, audio descriptions of movie, television, and game scenes (“descriptive video service”) can be enabled. (See Descriptive Video Works for more information.)

Here's another example of how one sense can be used to give information about another sense. Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz created the sound shirt (or soundshirt, or SoundShirt, or Soundshirt—I’ve seen it rendered all of these ways). The sound shirt was originally designed to be worn by people who are deaf and hearing impaired while attending the symphony (CuteCircuit, 2018). The shirt is embedded with 28-30 actuators that are programmed to respond with a vibration to sounds coming from microphones placed around the concert space. At the symphony, for example, “violins can be felt on the arms and the drums on the back” (Marchese, 2019).

The newest iteration of the sound shirt was created to be worn by fans who are deaf or hard of hearing attending Newcastle United soccer matches (Gornall, 2024). Just as in concert venues, microphones were placed around the stadium to capture the noise of the crowd. Actuators in the Newcastle United replica jersey sound shirt vibrate depending on the nature or the cause of the noise. For example, the singing crowd causes the shirt sleeves to vibrate, and a goal by the opposing team causes vibrations on the back (Eveleigh, 2024).

Francesca Rosella “has degrees [in] interior architecture and Master’s degrees in Sustainable Design, and in Interaction Design” (“Francesca Rosella,” 2020). Ryan Genz has degrees in studio art and anthropology as well as a Master’s degree in Interaction Design (“Ryan Genz,” 2020). While the institution where Rosella and Genz earned their degrees (Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Italy) was short-lived (2001-2006) (“Interaction Design Institute Ivrea,” 2024), the field of interaction design is very much alive. In fact, interaction design is part of the broader field of human-computer interaction (Löwgren, 2024) which is part of the even broader field of human factors and engineering psychology. The American Psychological Association has a brief introduction to this field.

After sharing this information with students, invite students to work in small groups to answer the following questions:

  1. In what other contexts might a sound shirt be useful for people who are deaf or hearing impaired? Explain.
  2. Are there contexts where those with perfectly fine hearing might benefit from a sound shirt? Explain.
  3. Instead of using the sense of touch, might there be a way to turn sound into light waves? Explain how the crowd noise at a soccer match could be displayed via, say, virtual reality (VR) goggles.
  4. For people who are blind or vision impaired, how might a “sight shirt” work at a soccer match to help communicate the action on the pitch?

 

References

CuteCircuit. (2018, May 11). Biography. CuteCircuit. https://cutecircuit.com/biography/

Eveleigh, R. (2024, June 5). Newcastle United introduces ‘sound shirts’ for deaf supporters. Positive News. https://www.positive.news/lifestyle/sport/newcastle-united-introduces-sound-shirts-for-deaf-supporte...

Francesca Rosella. (2020, August 25). Explore Mars. https://www.exploremars.org/speaker/francesca-rosella/

Gornall, K. (2024, April 11). Newcastle United introduce “sound shirts” for deaf fans. BBC Sport. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/68780625

Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. (2024). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Interaction_Design_Institute_Ivrea&oldid=1206070266

Löwgren, J. (2024). Interaction Design—Brief intro. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2n...

Marchese, K. (2019, October 4). The sound shirt lets deaf people feel music on their skin. Designboom. https://www.designboom.com/technology/cute-circuit-deaf-people-feel-music-skin-soundshirt-haptic-sen...

Ryan Genz. (2020, August 25). Explore Mars. https://www.exploremars.org/speaker/ryan-genz/

 

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.