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Universal Design In Japan

From: Ross Chambless
Length: 05:47

In Japan Universal Design is often being heard through talking machines and appliances. Read the full description.

Ticket_machine_small A couple years ago I was recording every talking machine I encountered while living in Japan. It became one of my many hobbies. I am no electronics industry expert, just a curious person who listens. This curiosity lead me to the concept of Universal Design and how it is increasingly being HEARD in Japan.  Universal Design was conceived by an American architect in the 1980’s for making offices, buildings, and other structures to be compatible for everyone, regardless of physical ability or culture. I contacted various companies like Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Panasonic, and they confirmed this trend. Moreover a Japanese soundscape researcher I met suggested much of the reasons behind it are cultural, stemming from Japanese social preferences for public announcements rather than speaking directly to each other.  Another factor may be the quickly evolving electronics industry, where the trend of Universal Design has given devise-makers a reason to add little voices to things as mundane as rice cookers, refrigerators, and other household appliances.

Finally I met a fascinating British speech scientist at a government funded lab near Kyoto. The lab is called ATR, (Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International). There scientists are building robots, studying sound spaces, and there is even a life-size replica of a typical Japanese home used for research. The scientist I met, Dr. Nick Campbell, says the Japanese are very interested in developing “ubiquitous computing, ambient spaces, and intelligent environments.” He says these are new keywords coming out where people and places are sharing information and making our living areas “smarter.” BMW drivers can already interact with their cars, but Campbell says in the future we may be interacting with vending machines and even regular household appliances. He says they will likely use different voices and speech tones depending on context.

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Piece Description

A couple years ago I was recording every talking machine I encountered while living in Japan. It became one of my many hobbies. I am no electronics industry expert, just a curious person who listens. This curiosity lead me to the concept of Universal Design and how it is increasingly being HEARD in Japan.  Universal Design was conceived by an American architect in the 1980’s for making offices, buildings, and other structures to be compatible for everyone, regardless of physical ability or culture. I contacted various companies like Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Panasonic, and they confirmed this trend. Moreover a Japanese soundscape researcher I met suggested much of the reasons behind it are cultural, stemming from Japanese social preferences for public announcements rather than speaking directly to each other.  Another factor may be the quickly evolving electronics industry, where the trend of Universal Design has given devise-makers a reason to add little voices to things as mundane as rice cookers, refrigerators, and other household appliances.

Finally I met a fascinating British speech scientist at a government funded lab near Kyoto. The lab is called ATR, (Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International). There scientists are building robots, studying sound spaces, and there is even a life-size replica of a typical Japanese home used for research. The scientist I met, Dr. Nick Campbell, says the Japanese are very interested in developing “ubiquitous computing, ambient spaces, and intelligent environments.” He says these are new keywords coming out where people and places are sharing information and making our living areas “smarter.” BMW drivers can already interact with their cars, but Campbell says in the future we may be interacting with vending machines and even regular household appliances. He says they will likely use different voices and speech tones depending on context.

1 Comment Atom Feed

User image

Visual Signals

During my trip in Japan I notice these audio notifications everywhere, but also, it was very common to find visual signals as well, specially cartoonish diagrams, from the public phone to the train-ticket kiosks... All the audio and visual hits combined makes life easy, not only for senior citizens, but foreigner non-japanese-speaker people as well.