The Nanyang Technological University and Housing Development Board in Singapore has won sizeable funding from the Ministry of National Development and National Research Foundation to develop an augmented reality (AR) system that will allow city soundscapes to be simulated, helping urban planners and real estate developers design better public and private spaces that reduce noise pollution. The winning proposal is one of five awarded a total of S$14 million (USD$10.1 million) in the Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge.

Using this technology, urban designers will be able to listen to the simulated sounds of the bustling city of Singapore and visualize how different noise sources act together using AR headphones. “The key objective of this project is to develop a demonstrator of a software system for simulation and creation of the sound environment that allows designer to generate sound objects (of noise sources and natural sound sources), which can be placed in a 3D space,” reads the National Research Foundation’s press release on the challenge winners. “User can perceive the soundscape through a pair of augmented reality (AR) headsets to listen and see how different sound objects will interact with each other, and preference of the sound attributes can be evaluated by human subjects. Arising from these findings, we can develop soundscape masking techniques to improve the aural comfort of residents in public areas.”

The project came as the Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge asked Singapore’s research community to come up with innovative solutions to improve the cost effectiveness of underground developments by 50% or improve human comfort and well-being by reducing ambient temperature by 4oC and ambient noise by 10dBA in residential areas. Singapore, being extremely densely populated with up to 7000 people per each square kilometer, has long suffered from excessive noise pollution as residential areas are often in close proximity with factories and construction sites. As such, there have been noise level regulations put into place across the city-state by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, as illustrated below.

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The Principal Investigator on the AR soundscape project, entitled, Augmenting Urban Soundscapes: Design Tools, Noise Mitigation System, and Evaluation of the Urban Sound Environment, is Nanyang Technological University’s associate professor Gan Woon Seng and his work is in-line with increasing global awareness that sound has a deep and profound impact on liveability; earlier this year we reported a new technology created in the USA which scores residential blocks by their noise levels to inform homebuyers before making a commitment.

“Soundscape is a new concept that explores and evaluates sound/noise in the environment in a holistic manner. The proposed soundscape approach utilizes active noise mitigation techniques that maintain natural ventilation in residential areas. Ambient noise reduction can be achieved based on psychoacoustic masking approaches that are perceptually more soothing and relaxing to the residents, and also trigger positive physiological responses,” continues the project description.

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