A Stanford University music professor is converting various kinds of sensory data, from the motion of a golfer's swing to images of cancerous cells, into audio as a way to communicate complex information. For Jonathan Berger, head of Stanford Institute for Creativity in the Arts, these projects are part of a larger multidisciplinary effort to understand how we use sound to interpret the world. From SF Gate:
Using a complex formula that involved hooking professional golfers up to sensors, Berger set to vowel sounds -- ah, eh and oo -- the velocity of the club head and the relative rotation of the shoulders with respect to the hips. Amateur golfers, attached to a computer, can get instant auditory feedback on their swings with vowel sounds and can make adjustments until it "sounds just right..."Link (Thanks, RU Sirius!)
"In many cases, there are increasing numbers of methods that have huge amounts of data that simply can't be interpreted visually," he said.
Take, for instance, the salinity, temperature and depth of the sea. One of Berger's former graduate students created a way to turn that all into sound using Pacific Coast buoys, giving listeners a chance to hear the "symphony of the sea" and understand more about it as they listen. In another case, Berger is planning to help a Stanford geophysicist who must use vast amounts of data to study how groundwater moves through the earth. By setting the data to sound, Berger hopes the geophysicist can better winnow the precise from the imprecise...
But Berger's musical collaborations go beyond setting the world to sound.
He and philosophy Professor Pat Suppes -- who has an interest in neuropsychology -- are using electroencephalogram or EEG sensors to record the electrical brain activity of volunteers listening to music.
Even with all the advances in technology, understanding of the brain is still slight, said Suppes, whose team also includes a mathematician, physicist and biologist. The goal of working with Berger is to decode the electrical activity or "language" of the brain so they can better map out its functions. The potential applications are far reaching: It someday may be possible to understand the paralyzed when they attempt to speak by studying electrical signals in the brain.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.