011 / 012 – FYP Progress

Chronophone – Speculative Chronoceptive Headset

The device provide its user time information through a constant stream of sonic feedback, using the sense of hearing as a substitute for a sense of time. Information transmitted gets processed in the hearing part of the brain, through prolonged exposure, one will be able to make sense of the time/sonic information, similar to the feeling of being in the water after a long day of swimming. The device is worn on the head, with the sound transmitted through bone conduction to instil a better chronoception. This helps us have an internalised sense of time, instead of us having to rely on watches, clocks, and alarms.

The concept behind this device is my take on a future new line of wearable products that trains us to tell time instinctively. The device is also an ultimate timing device that can train our rhythm, timing intervals, etc.

Why time?

Time is a very big part of our lives, controlling our day and our activities. We wear wrist watches and install clocks in our homes and offices so we can know what time it is. I ask: “how can sensory substitution help us bring this further and improve the way we tell time?”

Circuitry for my device, made using Fritzing

Properties to play around:

  • intervals
  • length of tones
  • number of reps
  • pitch tone
  • clicks
  • vibration?

Various combination of feedback I think will be good:

  • Constant interval; constant tone length; varying pitch tone; varying reps
  • Constant interval; varying tone length; varying pitch tone; varying reps
  • Constant interval; varying tone length; constant pitch tone; varying reps (like morse code)

Also, I think seconds should be the one varying in reps & tone length (and maybe pitch?), minutes should be varying in pitch and have intervals, hours should be varying in pitch but more of a background constant hum


Constant intervals between seconds, minutes, hours, days (S, M, H, D); constant tone length; varying tone

  • very distracting and slow convey of information
  • very washed out information after prolonged exposure: the minute and hour tone isnt very obvious

… … …

Week 11/12 (which week is it now??)

During consult with prof last week, I proposed to experiment with TouchDesigner instead of a buzzer. Doing so allow me to stack the tones which makes it easier to have a feel of how using the device will feel like.

Just to recap, I think the ideal sounds will be:

  • Droning low hum for hours — signifies the length of an hour
  • Mid-low tone for minutes — something neutral and not too distracting
  • Clicks for seconds — Much like clock ticks which we are used to, and is not super disruptive.

With this, I set off to use clock and Audio Oscillator CHOP to create the tones. (BTW I’ll use an audio spectrum to determine the specific frequency if I can edit the code before showing this to y’all so if you see this message it means I haven’t done that) (for now I think the unit is in beats per seconds? I think?

  • For Seconds, I used pulse on frequency of 1bps, resulting in a single click every second. This is not ideal as I can’t customise much in terms of the properties of the “click” sound but for now we will use this.

  • For minutes, I used Sine (was thinking of Gaussian also) waves and a frequency of 100 ~ 300, ranging from 0 to 59 minutes (within 1 hour). The effect was a nice tinnitus-like sound which I think isn’t too bad since it sounds quite natural. I try to keep the tone as clean as possible so it doesn’t get too distracting, so Sine and Gaussian works best (but I chose Sine since it’s cleaner)
  • I think the only issue I have with this is that everytime it transits from 59min to 0min, the sound changes drastically. I think this can be good and bad — good because people can immediately tell that it’s a new hour. Bad because it’s too drastic.
  • Maybe I can do a lag (or I forgot which function?) to transit the sound smoothly

  • For hours, it’s more complicated. I was trying to map the sounds from 0 to 11hours, then from 13 to 23hours. But that will mean that the frequency of the droning sound increases from 12am till 12pm, then decrease after 1pm which seems unintuitive.
  • So I used a bunch of math and logic CHOPS to work around it and set a suitable time: the frequency increases from almost inaudible droning from 4am till 3pm. This makes it better cos I think the droning should be the most minimal when sleeping, and most obvious when awake.
  • from 4pm till 3am, the droning frequency decreases, just as the day goes into night.
  • The droning sound is Triangle waves with frequency set between 20 to 100bps so it gives a nice machine-like whirling sound which, to me, feels good to hear as it’s similar to machines whirling in the background. It’s kinda ambient to me so I feel that it’s appropriate.
How the bone conduction headphone is worn
Shah’s bone conduction headphones
Buttons on the underside

Thoughts on this

I think what I can do next is to get a earpiece and wear it for a while, actively learning the frequencies and associating them with the actual time. I want to see what happens.

Any feedbacks on the sound? I want to finalise it a bit before testing it, anyway it will take some time for the headphones to arrive so I can refine the sound.

Also, to work further, I can add more functions (I will talk more on that later)



So I think one big question is: what if we are in a place with loud noises? Will this device be useless? I borrowed Shah’s bone conduction headphones for a while and found that it’s not super effective too. I think this will be something I need to experiment and work on.


Maybe to market my device as an implant rather than a wearable which will make more sense. But I think within the speculative setting, my device seems to fit in.

Also, I can safely say that for this device I don’t need to use Arduino at all anymore. If TouchDesigner or any desktop program works, why not just use it? Since it’s speculative, I don’t need to explain how it works outside of the bluetooth pairing. It could be a manufactured internal timing chip linked to GPS timing, with its internal smart system blah blah blah future technology.

The most I see myself working on is to create buttons that can be used for timing and other functions within this device, connect it with a wifi module and batteries, connect to Adafruit.io which connects to the main program (TouchDesigner?), bluetooth paired with the device. This works within the exhibition, I’m happy.


I’ll be ordering some cheapo bone conducting headphones I found online and test them out. If they work, I will reskin them with a sick cyberpunk casing instead of building a whole new thing. Since it is bluetooth, I can pair this with a laptop and run this within the exhibition and users can wear it and walk around the room.

Sounds simple… I hope…

Further Thoughts

Anyway, I’m considering developing this device as much as I can as I see the potential. From here, I can add more functions like timers, or different sound modes, and I can add more sounds which I found interesting within just Audio Oscillator CHOP alone and I think there are more options to play with.

However I don’t want to overpromise also, so this is still just a thought.

Some other research

For another module, I had to write a short paper on anything related to design, so I wrote on my research topic and started from the root of my idea inspired by Neil Harbisson, Moon Ribas, and the Cyborg Arts / Cyborg Foundation. After revisiting the research I got more clear of my device as I think their motto resonated with me and my concept.

I also discovered that Neil had created something I’m working on now which is a headpiece that tells time.

Image taken from https://thoughtworksarts.io/projects/time-sense/


Only difference is the interface: his uses heat around the head, which can be a little crude since heat isn’t super precise in my opinion. Mine is pitch tone which is more complex since I have to map the appropriate pitch to the hours, minutes, seconds. But seeing this makes me feel more validated since someone tried doing this before, it could probably work. And also looking at how little wires I’ll probably use… (actually none?!) makes me happier 😀

Moon Ribas also did something called Kaleidoscope Vision where she wore goggles that allowed her to only see in colour blobs. She also did a thing called SpeedBorg where she creates a earring that detects surrounding speed and returns vibration feedback. She was then able to learn how fast people around her walks. Her learning to use the goggles and reframe her perspective, plus her being able to learn the speed of people around her and using it as art, gave me hope that my device can work if I test it by wearing it myself.

Image taken from https://www.lupiga.com/vijesti/katalonci-cudnim-zvukovima-odredili-boju-zagreba
Image taken from http://www.weltenschummler.com/tech-science/rp13-how-to-become-a-cyborg/

In short, I’m trying to create a device that turns people into cyborgs.

Just a small update to strengthen my concept.

Plans for next 2 weeks

  1. Order the parts I need
  2. (refine?) the sound
  3. Once done up, start wearing the device while syncing it with my laptop and actively learning the times
  4. Update Notion page (man I always get anxious when I don’t plan but it’s the least productive thing I ever do and I don’t really follow my plans anyway…)
  5. Start working on next product: Weather Sensograph… or the money sensor
  6. Presentation slides for second interim
    1. Refresher short intro on concept
    2. Progress documentation(?)
    3. Moodboard and sketches(?)
    4. Current prototype
    5. Timeline ahead

Small mental note

Anyway I’m happy with my current understanding of my project. Although still a bit dissatisfied that my points are still all over the place, and it’s hard for me to pinpoint what exactly is the crux of my concept and what backs it up, I’m no longer struggling with the thinking part of the project… At least for now. I hope I’ll be able to make sense of everything when I write my report 🙁

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