CARMA -Center for Applied Research in Media Assisted Healthcare for Motion and Activity

What is sonification?

Creating sounds via human movement has always been the preserve of musicians, who know that the harder you draw a violin bow, pluck a guitar string, or blow air into a clarinet, the louder and sometimes harsher the resultant sound will be. In order to make the desired sound, musicians have to regulate and control the movements they make so that they exert just the right amount of mechanical stimulus. In many cases, this regulation of movement is achieved by reacting to the quality of the sound which is being produced at that specific moment. If the sound is too loud or harsh, for instance, the musician applies less force, and more if it is too soft.

Recently, this type of acoustic real-time perceptual feedback, termed sonification, has gained significant attention as a means of altering and improving body mechanics in fields such as sports and rehabilitation. Several previous studies have demonstrated that a sound which is representative of a person’s current body position can be used as feedback to provide the individual with information relating to their body position. For instance, a loud noise produced every time a runner exhibits excessive rear-foot heel strike. The runner’s goal in this example would be to reduce the volume of the sound by gradually altering their running style until no sound is produced at all. This is just one example of the possible applications of sonification for altering body mechanics. Researchers have shown that it can be used very effectively in rowing, swimming, ice skating, cycling and basketball. Benefits have also been seen in the rehabilitation of upper extremity function, postural stability and handwriting. Despite the success and potential of sonification, relatively little research has been carried out into its application for the rehabilitation of gait pathologies.

The goal of the SONIGait team is to develop a sonification application for facilitating gait rehabilitation in individuals with abnormal gait patterns.