If Buildings Could Listen
If you’re in a building now, you could stop and listen to its sounds. But what if the building was listening to you? I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Tarazaga: So, vibration sensors are very, very sensitive. So, for example, if you’re within 10 feet of this sensor, you drop your pencil, and we’ll detect that.
Pablo Tarazaga is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech. We’re in Godwin Hall. With its array of over 200 vibration sensors, it’s a building that’s definitely listening to its inhabitants.
Tarazaga: Someone’s running an experiment in the lab, the HVAC turned on, or someone dropped something or someone closed the door. So, all these things get captured as vibrations that permeate through the floor to the location of our sensors.
Tarazaga: So, what you see here on this computer screen is just data being gathered by the vibration sensor. And then, what we have here is a hammer for you to try. You want to just tap the floor a little bit and look at the screen and you can see. This sensor is actually quite far away. It’s about 60 feet away from us and then a floor up above us. And what we’re asking you to try is tap the floor lightly and see if the sensor registers it.
Metzner: How hard should I hit it?
Tarazaga: Oh, just a little tap.
Metzner: Little tap, OK
Ambience: Hammer tapping floor once fairly lightly
Metzner: And there it is.
The taps are registered as spikes on the graph scrolling on a computer screen just like a seismograph in an earthquake. The idea is that the information, the sounds the detectors gather, would be used to respond to the needs of the building’s inhabitants.
Tarazaga: For example it might survey your lab and know if, your students are working are there. It knows that the garbage hasn’t been taken out because it recognizes a weight load in that place, so it does preventive actions to that kind of behavior. So, the idea is that a lot of these processes that we do become semi-automated or become interactive with the person by querying the system.
I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.