Globe.fm: A radio that lets you travel the world through sound

A two-week student project at the Umeå Institute of Design. The aim of this course was to utilize sound in a meaningful way.

Team: Alexander Widua, Linda Kraft, Romy Koppert
Mentoring: Andreas Estensen, Thomas Degn
Context: Sound Design at Umeå Institute of Design
Tools: Arduino, After Effects, Vital.audio
Timeline: 2 weeks
Core77 Student Notable

My role: One of my key roles, in addition to being highly involved in the general design and animation process, was to create the visualization of the user interface as well as find intuitive and engaging interactions to navigate through the digital user interface. Every choice was taken as a group.

The Challenge

People have been tethered to their homes since the beginning of the Covid crisis, and distant destinations have become unfulfilled desires. Triggered by the ongoing pandemic and the notion of wanderlust, we wondered how sound could be used to fulfill people's longing to revisit and discover faraway places.


How might we turn sound into an explorative and engaging experience?



The Solution

Globe.fm is an object that allows people to experience the world through sound based on the selected location. Reminiscent of a traditional radio, Globe.fm lets users browse through different sound channels.

The process of designing Globe.fm

Rapid prototyping and testing meant that we were able to fail quickly in order to move on.

Making ideas tangible through rapid prototyping

In several iterations, we produced quick, exploratory prototypes with various tangible inputs, which we subsequently evaluated with potential users in several iterations.

The globe as the core navigation element

Taking our cue from the globe, we drew inspiration from trackballs and incorporated their spherical shape as the main element in our design.

Prototyping the navigation of the interface with the sphere.

Getting inspired by existing tools

We looked at existing world map visualizations and their navigation as part of our research. Therefore, we were inspired by Google Earth and Apple Maps, among other apps.

Validation

During testing, we discovered that combining the sphere input with the visualization was very intuitive, and encouraged exploration in a playful way.

Testing gesture input with one of our very early prototypes.

Bringing things together

We built numerous prototypes with Arduino to validate the world view by testing them with potential users.

Finding the right level of abstraction

One challenge was mapping the sound to the visualization. After multiple rounds of testing, we discovered that in order to move around the soundscapes, we needed to substantially abstract our world map.

Realistic world map superimposed on the abstracted world map of the soundscape.

Becoming aware of our world map biases

After exhibiting a prototype to students from varied backgrounds, we found that Europe was usually presented at the center of our globe visualization. As a result, we experimented with a variety of map projections in order to reduce map bias.

What I have learned

• Designing an interface that was not only operated by tapping or swiping, but by more sophisticated interactions was an exciting challenge for me, as I had previously worked mainly on mobile or desktop applications.

• I began to embrace building a lot of rapid lo-fi prototypes and putting ideas on paper early on in order to have them tested quickly.

• In retrospect, we were able to find a good solution for the object's interaction. However, we could have spent more time exploring its interaction modalities even further.