[ISEA2011] Paper: Cara-Ann Simpson, Eva Cheng, Ben Landau & James Laird – Geodesic Sound Helmets


Geodesic Sound Helmets (referred to as GSHelmets for brevity) will be a series of immersive and interactive personal sound environments. Currently a work-in-progress, GSHelmets are large geodesic dome-shaped helmet objects containing surround sound flat panel/flexible loudspeakers (FPS), motion detectors and breathing sensors. The use of FPS technology allows the helmets to be slimline and lightweight, where the interior of the helmet is seamlessly integrated into a singular component. Such a design is essential to the philosophy of GSHelmets as the comfort, both physiological and psychological, of the participant is paramount.

When a participant walks into the space they are invited to put their head inside different ‘helmets’ to hear three-dimensional manipulated soundscapes from locations including (but not limited to) Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Spain. Motion sensors will be built into the helmet to allow the unit to be switched on automatically when a participant interacts with the object by standing with their head inside it. Similarly, when the participant leaves, the object will turn off the sound. A breathing sensor (i.e., air-flow and humidity) located approximately 10-15cm from the participant’s mouth will react in real-time to manipulate the soundscapes according to the individual’s breathing pattern: the sound is changed as the person breathes faster or slower, more deeply or more shallowly. Surround sound spatialisation in the helmets will initially be through amplitude panning and phase decorrelation, with a view to implementing state-of-art near field 3D sound spatialisation algorithms.

GSHelmets explores differing roles of artist and audience, interactive installation within public interior spaces, new technologies within art, and the importance of physicality. As an exhibition, interactive installation and research collaboration between artist, engineer and audience, GSHelmets questions the validity of the author/artist as sole creator and suggests that the artist lays a foundation for the public to mould and manipulate into his or her own artwork or composition. Thus, the artist’s role within GSHelmets is that of facilitator, while the public become composers and listeners.

  • Cara-Ann Simpson, (b. 1985) is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on sculpture, sound, space and the participant. Cara-Ann is concerned with modes of listening/hearing in social situations and how people interact with sound. In 2011, Cara-Ann has received an International Program: Cultural Exchange Grant from Arts Victoria, has presented at Subtle Technologies Festival & Symposium in Toronto, and will publish a paper with Eva Cheng in the International Journal of Art & Technology. In 2010, Cara-Ann received a Young Artists’ Grant from the City of Melbourne to support the exhibition of Geo Sound Helmets at Kings ARI in Melbourne, Australia. In 2010 she also received an ArtStart grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to attend the IEEE International Conference on Multimedia & Expo (ICME2010, Singapore) where she presented a paper with collaborator Eva Cheng (research engineer) on an interactive sound installation. The Janet Holmes á Court Artists’ Grant Scheme supported the development of this installation in 2009, and Cara-Ann was subsequently featured in Real Time Magazine’s online Studio section. She graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts First Class Honours from the University of Southern Queensland in 2008, and received the University of Southern Queensland Faculty of Art – Visual Arts medal in 2007. Simpson was the recipient of the Hobday and Hingston Bursary from the Queensland Art Gallery in 2007 for being the most promising undergraduate student from a Queensland tertiary art course. Cara-Ann also received the Asia-Pacific Golden Key International Honours Society Visual & Performing Arts Sculpture Award (2008), and was short-listed in the Wilson HTM National Art Prize (2009), and Agendo (2009). Simpson has had a number of solo exhibitions, sound releases and been involved in numerous performances and group shows within Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. Cara-Ann is the Co-Director & Co-Producer of Electrofringe Ltd, which hosts an annual electronic arts festival and year-round programming in Australia. Cara-Ann is currently raising money to continue working on Geo Sound Helmets. caraannsimpson.com. Video: Geodesic Sound Helmets
  • Eva Cheng is a Research Officer in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at RMIT University in Melbourne., AU. Her primary research interest areas are in digital speech and audio signal processing: quality of multimedia experience, 3D audio recording and reproduction, microphone array design and processing, spatial audio/speech coding, room acoustics modelling, psychoacoustics (especially in relation to spatial perception), and (real-time) audio synthesis techniques. In conjunction with multimedia engineering research activities, Eva collaborates with artists on a range of new media arts projects and works: recorded and live performances as well as (static and real-time interactive) mixed media gallery installations
  • James Laird (b. 1988) is a practicing biomedical engineer with a background in electronics. He has interests in sonic and installation art, cognitive prosthetics, and consciousness. He is currently engaged in the design of a new spinal cord implant for the control of chronic pain, and is concurrently pursuing a doctorate in neuromodulation and electrophysiology.  mafipulation.org
  • Ben Landau  [ISEA2011 provided no biographical information]

Full text (PDF) p. 2256-2261