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SoundX founder Damien Quintard (PC: Bertrand Guay)

Paris Philharmonic Uses Vibrating Vests to Assist the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Audience members with hearing disabilities can enjoy concerts with a device that transforms sounds into vibrations felt by the body

 

The Philharmonie de Paris has partnered with the SoundX company to produce equipment connected to AI that can convert sound sequences into vibrations that can be felt physically, allowing those with hearing disabilities to enjoy symphony concerts. 

Connected to WiFi, the device is no bigger than a small backpack and is worn like a vest, covering the chest and back. Its vibrations will help complete the visual aspect and overall concert experience.

“It's really positive,” responded a deaf man, Nicolas Blimond, upon trying the device. “With the vibrations, I feel the rhythm.”

This technology was originally developed for video game players for immersive games, however, the French manufacturer realized the vests could similarly be used by the deaf. The SoundX device has since been tested for eight months, and improved with students from Paris’s National Institute for Deaf Youth.

“We analyze the entire audio spectrum from 0 to 20,000 hertz,” SoundX founder and sound engineer Damien Quintard. “We take these frequencies which are relatively high in the audio spectrum and we transcribe them, with very, very high precision, into a vibrational spectrum which is in the bass.”

Rather than being linked to individual phones, the vibrating packs are controlled by the Philharmonie concert hall from just a single tablet. 

As of the 2024/25 season, a number of the devices will be free to use during concerts by those with hearing disabilities, who also receive 20% off their tickets. 

“We are going to leave ourselves all this season to calibrate things, including from a technical point of view,” said head of accessibility at Philharmonie, Hélène Lamotte. “[We hope by] the following season, a good part of the shows [will be equipped with this device].” 

Additionally, the Philharmonie is hosting concerts translated into sign language, and in December 2023, will present a symposium — titled “Beyond Sound: Deafness and musical experiences,” which will address the tools and methods that exist in France and abroad “to invent a musical journey open to these audiences.”

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