Soundscape research brings the countryside to life

Soundscape research brings the countryside to life

Could a soundscape, presented using state of the art technology, help encourage more young people to take an active interest in the countryside?

In a day and age when gaming sees players immersed in sight and sounds, apparently oblivious to the outside world, academics hope to use IT to tempt more outside.

The technique is called acoustic augmented reality (AAR) and sees sound brought in to boost what has so far been predominantly visual work.

A collaboration between the University of Cumbria, University for the Creative Arts, Glyndwr University, Manchester Metropolitan University and Albion Outdoors funded by the Consortium for Research Excellence, Support and Training (CREST) has seen academics focus on nature and biodiversity.

Northumberland based Albion Outdoors which runs outdoor ecological activities with young people plan to include school groups and their local ‘young ecologist’ team in the project.

Deborah Brady, field tutor with Albion Outdoors and lecturer at the University of Cumbria, explained that CREST were particularly interested in the STEM opportunities the project offered: “They are really positive about getting young people involved with universities and giving them a chance to experience the design and testing stage, and seeing how ideas can become reality. We still have some fully funded capacity to involve schools so if any schools think this might interest their pupils do get in touch.”

​Mark Lawton, senior lecturer in outdoor studies at the University of Cumbria, said: “Augmented reality (AR) is not new but the use of sound or acoustics in AR is less investigated.”

Groups will undertake a facilitated walk through an environment, where the soundscapes will be used as educational aids to enhance appreciation and understanding of the environment​.  The hope is that it provides mechanisms to explore an environment throughout time: the past, present and future​ and introduce narrative, induce imagination, and provoke emotional responses.”

He added: “Getting the groups to appreciate what we have lost in the natural world and what we could potentially have again.  To get people to question, what was that noise and be able to learn its name and develop a concern for it. 

“We’re only in a pilot stage at the moment but the technology works, with only a few glitches associated with frequency.”

“We are hoping to move to the next stage in the New Year and work with a school group to design a session that will achieve this aim.”