Edinburgh Napier student's invention allows deaf people to experience music
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The National Student speaks to Daniel Pilley, final year student of Edinburgh Napier University, about his design for a product to help deaf people experience music. Inspired by a conversation that took place on his year abroad in Oslo, he’s looking forward to developing the device beyond his degree.
Image: Daniel Pilley courtesy of Edinburgh Napier University
Daniel explains his plans to refine and eventually commercialise his product, which has manifested itself in the form of a new kind of practice amp for musicians that converts audio into the physical movement of hundreds of curved plastic blades, arranged into a spiral-shaped dome-like structure. The player stands on top of this platform and the vibrations are communicated through the feet, enabling an extra dimension of perception to those with impaired hearing. Initially, his idea outran his expertise and he had to “listen to people who knew better than [him]”, but through the project, he has gained an in-depth understanding of acoustic physics. The next step, he says, will be working out the electronics. His project was part of his degree programme at Edinburgh Napier University. Daniel says: “We all have to do what’s called a major project, which is the big one at the end […] we get to decide what that is as well. And being musical myself, I always wanted to combine music with design in one way or another and it just felt natural to try and provide people who don't have the option to opt into music with that option. In this case, [those with] hearing impairments.” "My project is an ambitious one, I kind of anticipated that I’m not going to be able to cure deafness within a year. That would be wild. The first step was to prove [the] technology. And then [came] the model. […] And then that gives it scope. It means I know what the next steps will be. So, if somebody did want to invest in me then they’d get their money’s worth.” Raising the question of how the device would cope replicating different types of music and whether it could recreate the finer higher frequencies or delicate subtleties of classical music, Daniel tells me how, as it stands, the product is intended for single instrument, mono input, but that he has ambitions for larger scale sound simulation. At the moment he sees the device as working with single musicians and perhaps simple band setups where the frequencies don’t cross over too much: “It leans towards soloist music, I think it would be fine for a band, say like for four members to play. I think that's also okay. But for the likes of an orchestra […] right now, it's a guitar amp or an amp that has a jack in it […] the guitar seemed like a good one to go for because it has a really wide range of sound.”
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