Many major cities around the world have set up live webcams so people can see what the city currently looks like without actually being there. One designer from the United Kingdom is taking this notion one step further by adding a hearing sensory to help visitors not only get a glimpse of new places, but also the sounds.
Developed by Nicola Hume, a product design graduate from the University of Dundee, Listen Here is a concept map that contains red dots where microphones are located. Visitors can hover the stethoscope-shaped RFID reader over different areas to hear what those parts of the cities currently sound like. The concept would require help from locals who would be willing to place microphones at various locations to help transmit data to a central map. Listen Here aims to make virtual tourism a more complete experience even when visitors can’t make it to faraway places.
“With the aim of preserving cultural diversity, it lets travellers see more than typical, commercial tourist attractions,” Hume writes on the official Listen Here design page. “Listen Here entices them to stray from the beaten track and learn about real, local life.”
The microphones that locals would use contain their own bike locks and corresponding keys — though we’re not so sure this is the most secure way to keep the microphone in place. We also wonder where people would place the microphones and what exactly we would hear. Certainly in a place like New York City there would just be a lot of traffic noise, and a strategic placement in a park could also result in unintended eavesdropping which would make it illegal in some American states. The microphones should also be placed in a spot where frequency isn’t too high, unreachable enough to not get tampered with, but can still deliver the kind of sound that accurately represents the area of the city.
With the concept still ripe with concerns, it is unknown if or when Listen Here will come to life. It’s certainly a better match for cities with more ambient sounds that louder metropolises. What do you think about a live audio feed of the city? Would you be inclined to listen in on places around the world, or do sights from webcams suffice?
A lot to wonder, but in the meantime, check out the video of how a someone would install a microphone and use the Listen Here map.