Researcher has his head in the sound cloud

AUTHOR: Inavate

A Canadian research house has developed an acoustically responsive mechanical-electrical system able to change the acoustics of a space according to user input OR, more interestingly, in response to the music being played. The Tunable Sound Cloud, as it is called, consists of a lightweight, motorised space frame, and a multi-layered skin material.

Architect and musician Mani Mani, working under the guise of the Fishtnk studio has been developing the concept since 2005, and has published a series of concepts, images of prototypes and videos of his work.

The Tunable Sound Cloud is a layered three dimensional dynamic space-frame that adjusts to its environment with linear actuators driven by micro-controllers. The structure, being a ceiling application, is made of an array of triangulated modules that are hinged to one another and folds on itself. The responsive surface layer, actuated with memory alloy wires (muscle wires) will control the openings of the surface to adjust sound reflection or sound absorption to enhance the acoustic performance of the space.

However that doesn’t really do it justice, the concept model is as much work of art as it is acoustic structure – and as you can see from the images & video it’s truly beautiful.

But how does it work? Actuated with a matrix of Shape Memory Alloys and Stepper motors and controlled through Arduino micro-controllers, the Tunable Sound Cloud (TSC) responds in real-time to the acoustic needs of its environment.

Auditory data is gathered through microphones and analysed through MAX/MSP software which adjusts the skin surface for sound reflection/ absorption of TSC in different scenarios.

The sound chamber and geometry of the structure are controlled by Grasshopper through Rhinoceros modelling tools (software). Working with architectural 3D design tools as a communication port between the virtual modelling/design and physical actuation of the structures components allows the design become more direct.

The TSC application could be manually adjusted for customised spatial arrangements (i.e. to provide pre-determined acoustic properties) or put in programmed mode, which allows the software to autonomously calibrate the system through a series of feedback loops. The TSC’s modular design allows for large scale expansions and site specific installations.