Helping the deaf to 'see sound'

Translating sound: Dr Mick Grierson from Goldsmith's, University of London, takes sound software to deaf children.

Deaf children have been testing software that enables them to see a visual representation of sound waves.

Called Lumisonic the software translates sound waves into circles that radiate on a display.

It creates a real time representation of sound and is designed to elicit responses quickly in the human brain.

"If I make a sound and lower the pitch, the rings contract," said Dr Mick Grierson, from Goldsmiths, University of London, who developed the system.

Lumisonic can respond to computer-generated noises or those from a microphone.

"I can change the pitch using a keyboard and see how that appears as I do so," explained Dr Grierson, co-director of creative computing at Goldsmiths.

Mick Grierson's discusses visualisation techniques on BBC World TV

Included alongside the sound translating software are tools that help users record and edit sound.

Professional musicians

The project to develop Lumisonic involved the London Philharmonic Orchestra, whose musicians performed with deaf children at Whitefields School in East London.

The children played instruments to see how their actions influenced the circles appearing on monitors.

"It gave them a way of interacting with sound and music, with musicians who are highly skilled. It enabled them to work with music in a way they haven't been able to before," said Dr Grierson.

When deaf children at Frank Barnes school in North London tested Lumisonic, they began experimenting by singing and clapping within a few minutes.

One partially deaf pupil described how it enabled her to relate much more to sound than had been possible in the past.

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