GA Tech sensors to capture the sound of Decatur

Posted by March 25, 2015
Decatur GA courthouse

Decatur GA courthouse

If you hear something strange coming from Decatur Square on Friday, don’t be alarmed — it’s just science at work, trying to identify the sound of Decatur.

Georgia Tech computer scientists and musicians are placing sensors around Decatur to collect data about how people interact with their environment. The question they’re posing is, what does the pulse of a major pedestrian area in the metro region sound like?

A system of sensors will gather pedestrian noise like footsteps, skateboards, bikes, and pets. It will also gather environmental sounds like rain and wind.

The sensor units will send the anonymous data to a server at Tech, which will then merge the data with social media feeds that may correlate to activities around Decatur.

If you have ever wondered what data actually sound like (I mean, who hasn’t?), a musical group dubbed Sonic Generator will be performing a rendition of the collected city data on Friday at 12:30 p.m. It’s a process call sonification — transforming data into sound.

The scientists’ hypothesis is that “researchers, city planners, and the public will be able to query this dense amount of data to explore questions about how and why people interact with Decatur by seeing and hearing patterns and correlations in urban infrastructure use and surrounding environmental conditions.”

The project is part of the Atlanta Science Festival, happening this week. Scientists are inviting people to not only come hear the sonification concert, but also to interact with the electronics and explore the data with them on Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The concert is a special event, but the sensors will be around long-term, collecting data beyond this week.


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  • Catherine Fox

    I am sure they will hear the sound of construction!!

  • Eric

    This is what they will capture…”my BRUNCH matters!”

  • Greg

    The article seems to have missed the point of the project a bit. It appears the point is to collect many different kinds of environmental data (not just sound). And they are planning to CREATE sound out of the data to enable people to explore it audibly.

  • j

    Does this mean they’ll turn off the “distressed bird recordings”?
    Honestly, I prefer the pigeons…

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