Directional Sound Offers New Library Experience to Visually Impaired
In southwestern England, Holosonics’ Audio Spotlight directional sound technology is the essential feature of ‘The Listening Booth’: Exeter Library’s space where people with visual impairments are engaged in the environment with written words and sounds while the surrounding space remains peacefully quiet.
The booth, which has no walls, is a two-seater, open-ended wooden structure that utilises a forward-facing Audio Spotlight AS-16i directional speaker to play audio that only those seated inside can hear, with no sound bleed affecting nearby areas of the library. The booth, which uses infrared sensors to detect when someone enters it, was designed to offer library goers with compromised sight an alternative to engage with literature, periodicals, and other audio content provided by the library.
When a visitor enters the booth, the Audio Spotlight speaker plays a welcoming message and then offers a menu of audio that can be chosen using specially-designed tactile buttons. Audio Spotlight’s revolutionary directional sound technology was the perfect fit for the booth, which is expected to be taken on tour to other libraries throughout southern England in the future.
“I found the AS-16i easy to set up and install, and was really impressed with how directional the sound was. Working in a library meant the audio had to be really tight yet clear, and the Audio Spotlight was certainly up to the job.” -Hugh McCann, Artist / Booth Designer
The Listening Booth was created by English artist Hugh McCann, with support from various groups including the Arts Council England, Libraries Unlimited, and the Exeter City Council. In using Audio Spotlight technology, the booth met the challenge of producing a narrow beam of sound that can’t be heard by anyone even just a step or two away from the structure. With consultation from students at the WESC Foundation, a specialist centre for the visually impaired, the Listening Booth was manufactured by Knowle West Media Studio: The Factory.
By implementing the booth, the library now provides visually impaired people a source for learning and entertainment that other traditional libraries in the region do not offer. Each month, four new pieces of audio are programmed into the booth, including stories and articles produced by local writers and classic poems read by local school children.