November 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Synesthetic Din: Interactive Urban Sound Experiment for Android

An exploration in interactive sound, Synesthetic Din ($1) for Android creates unique musical compositions out of your immediate surroundings. Buildings, trees, cars, and even people turn into instruments as you observe your world.

Synesthetic Din

Choose from three tracks containing prerecorded urban noise samples

Unlike some other augmented reality apps, however, this one always sounds great, because the sound is canned instead of randomly grabbed by your smartphone’s or earphones’ microphone. Using pre-recorded urban noise samples, Synesthetic Din contains three “tracks” to choose from to use as a base for your composition: Cacophony, Din, and Commotion. After choosing a track, the app uses visual input from your phone’s camera to adjust the structure of the composition. Playback is determined by color samples from your environment.

Because the app uses real time color samples, compositions vary depending on the types of colors your phone registers. Warm and cool colors will produce different sounds changing the mood of your track. How fast or slow you move your phone around will also affect playback.

Created by media designer and design educator Alex Braidwood, whose ongoing research focuses on the relationship between people and noises in public spaces, Synesthetic Din definitely has an “academic” feel — that is, it’s an interesting concept, beautifully executed, but not particularly useful, since you can’t record the results. The sole purpose is to experience sounds within the environment that generates them. But can you really imagine yourself walking down a crowded city street holding aloft your phone?

Synesthetic DinSpeaking of which, Synesthetic Din was definitely created with the urban landscape in mind. After all, the prepared sounds use urban noise samples, and the app relies on movement to make noise. We imagine it would be quite boring in a non-urban setting.

In our experience with the app, all of the compositions we created, regardless of which track we used, took on an ominous tone. We tried pointing the phone at different colors, but the underlying tracks always had a sense of foreboding  to them. This worked out quite nicely in Manhattan, considering that people here constantly have a look of impending doom on their faces.

Even though we can’t find a practical purpose to this app, we still enjoyed it. Conquering simplicity and sophistication at once is a difficult task, but Synesthetic Din has succeeded on that front.

If you’re into sound art and urban noise experiments (and have a dollar to spend on them), this Android app is easily worth checking out. Just don’t expect anything practical.