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Three Reasons to Care about the Eclipse Soundscapes Project

Three of many, that is.


Now that you’ve read all about the Soundscapes Project, you may be asking yourself: how does this apply to me? And that’s great! We love people who ask questions! The thing is, you don’t have to an astrophysicist, a diehard eclipse chaser, or a person with a visual disability to enjoy Eclipse Soundscapes. In fact, we think the more people our project reaches, the stronger it is. Here are three reasons you might want to pay attention to what we’re doing:


One of the main objectives of the Eclipse Soundscapes Project is to bring this exciting astronomical event to the blind and visually impaired community. We want everyone to get as excited about astrophysics as we do, but the tools to make science accessible have not always existed. That’s why we’ve created an app with illustrative audio descriptions, which will be delivered in real time as the eclipse progresses, and an interactive “rumble map” which will allow users to explore the physical qualities of an eclipse through touch and sound. These tools are not only valuable to individuals who are blind and visually impaired, but to people of all different learning and communication styles. By providing these oft-excluded groups with the right tools to learn about astrophysics, we aim to strengthen science by reaching a larger, more diverse population.


There is no better time than now to get people interested in preserving our fascinating planet, and the more we know about our ecosystems, the better we can protect them. Eclipse Soundscapes is working with partners such as the National Park Service to collect high quality audio recordings in wildlife areas across the country. With these recordings, we hope to learn more about how and why animal behaviors change with the variations in light and temperature caused by a solar eclipse. After the eclipse, Eclipse Soundscapes will host these recordings alongside the recordings of citizen scientists to provide an open source database of sounds for researchers and educators to study.


Are you an audio engineer? An app developer? A self-proclaimed video game nerd? When we set out to create our app, there were a lot of hurdles. But instead of setting the bar lower, our team innovated to create an app with some pretty exciting advancements in accessibility technology. We’re especially proud of our Rumble Map, which uses a technology called “FM Synthesis” to mimic a haptic response in a smartphone. The Rumble Map reads a grayscale value under the user’s finger, scales it from 0-1, and then adjusts the volume of a low frequency tone to produce vibrations in a phone’s speakers with a strength relative to the brightness of that section. The tool, created in collaboration between our audio engineer Miles Gordon and iOS developer Arlindo Goncalves, is based on the haptic response usually experienced in gaming and virtual reality platforms. Accessibility reviewers who tested the app say they’ve “never seen anything like it.” It’s a technology worthy of a patent, but that would go against our belief that science is for everybody. In fact, our entire project will be free and open source so other tech geeks can improve upon our innovations.


Of course, there are many other reasons to care about Eclipse Soundscapes. What’s yours? Tweet us at @EclipseSoundSAO to tell us why YOU are excited.