As part of the Thinking Digital Conference, artist Dominic Wilcox and creative technologist James Rutherford dreamt up Binaudios, an oversized public listening device which lets visitors experience the sounds of Newcastle, UK in a completely new way. (Video)



The device, which is powered by Raspberry Pi and features two giant “listening cones,” can be pointed at over 50 different locations around the city. Each of these locations has been paired with either a recent pre-recorded track, or found historical sounds that are relevant to that particular location. That could mean a crowd chanting during a football match, the king making a speech at Tyne Bridge in 1928, or skateboarders and tennis players having fun in a local park.

The idea was the work of Suzy O’Hara, who is currently studying for her PhD at Sunderland University. She wanted to see what would happen when you pair up an artist and someone heavily involved with technology. As Wilcox explains on his website:

It was interesting to be paired with a technology expert to see what would happen. The venue we had been given is used for music and sound performances, so we wanted to create something involving audio. The view across the river is spectacular and the idea for these Binaudios emerged.

Thanks to the way they were designed, the giant listening cones also result in an experience that’s much more organic than just clicking through recorded tracks.

As the Binaudios are turned each sound merges with the sound next to it, like a DJ soundscape of previously unconnected things. The train station sound fades into the sound of a street performer followed by road works then a local primary school children singing.

Many people don’t give the tourist viewing binoculars a second look, but due to their unusual shape, the Binaudios could be a great way to reinvigorate viewing platforms and other tourist attractions not only in the UK, but globally as well.