Sound City Project

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The urban landscape is made up of more than just bricks and mortar. When you walk onto the street and close your eyes, what sounds can you hear? Are they fragments of conversations? The sound of wind rustling? People arguing? Streetcars passing along? Sound City Project is a 3D soundscape created by David Vale, Rick van Mook, and Caco Teixeira that can be listened online from the comfort of your home.

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Kind of like Google Street View for the ears. The team have recorded stereoscopic sounds from six cities across 64 locations including, New York City, San Francisco, Bergen, Flåm, and Oslo in Norway, and Stockholm in Sweden. But as the project is ongoing, new recordings and additions are continually being made.

“Each location was hand-picked to bring a beautiful, yet rich audio experience for the user. We wanted more than just the ‘urban’ white noise that you would expect. Users can experience a range of sounds, including that of Times Square on a weekend to a moving train in the middle of a small village in Norway.” says Vale.

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The sounds were recorded using a custom built 3D printed “soundhead” which has four ears, to capture four channels of stereoscopic sound. They designed the “head” in Maya, building it according to the anatomy of the human head, so the ears sit at the same distance apart, meaning they could include mechanisms often used in video games (it allows users to hear a sound and pinpoint it in space, making a virtual experience much more realistic).

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The plan is to open the project up for collaborations, live streaming, and possibly creating a downloadable kit with the “soundhead” for people to capture their own recordings, and expand to mobile. Eventually, maybe leading to a strange virtual setup where places aren’t just mapped visually but aurally, as well. In the future we’ll be able to take a tour on Street View where the sounds of that area can be heard, changing and shifting along with the visuals.

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