User Experience Researcher


We designed an experience that brought the birdsong indoors.


Design an urban birdsong experience


Jolin Ma, Ruoxi Song, Harry Solomons and Qibin Cheng


Soundwalking, Physical prototyping


10.11 – 24.11.2022


Soundwalk findings:

  • There were layers of audio signals/ sounds within which the birdsongs and calls is hidden
  • We could hear bird sounds in our recordings when we only listened to them and we were not outside
Qibin’s soundwalk at a London park. Credit: Qibin Cheng
Harry’s experience of soundwalk in the countryside. Credit: Harry Solomons
Excerpt from my soundwalk

It was difficult for us to start with the physical prototypes because this brief was very open and it had a strong pull to audio.

We used our sound recordings by clearing them from the background noise and chopped them into smaller pieces using Audacity and Adobe Audio. Then we put these audio files and some royalty-free sounds in GarageBand macOS tool and played with them to see what can come up with which left us with more sound assets. We found out that we can create different melodies which are so far away from a bird song with the audio we have recorded by changing the tone and remixing them.

Playing sounds on a keyboard matching birdcall

In Audacity, we also explored what would happen if we reverse the process: using the sound-spectrograms-like images to create a sound or only parts of the image files we already had generated from our audio. It did not yield useful results but it was worth exploring.

Working on Adobe Audio

We tested, a bird sound to play when you were walking triggered by the person stepping on the ground with their foot which we do not like the direction of at the end.

Meanwhile, we tried to flesh out our prototypes with help of the coding languages Python and p5.js (JavaScript), however, despite our knowledge of the languages, we lacked practical experience using them with audio. So to move forward quickly in the limited time we had we decided to test our ideas with Wizard of Oz prototypes to get insights quickly.

The tube was the ideal place for our goal of bringing nature to a place stripped out of it. We wanted to bring together the humans by “visualising” their typical behaviour there: sitting on their phones or chatting. 

Birdsong 1
Birdsong 2
Birdsong 3
Birdsong 4

We decided to make the experience ourselves by setting each other’s contacts a specific birdsong call of four different birds. The atmosphere was a blend of tube sounds overlaid with the birdsong. We also adjusted the pitch of the sounds to match each other and at the same time stand out from the ground nose we had running.

Taster of this week’s experience


The surprise element of our experience was well received and encouraged – a thing that was not too obvious to us. We would like to see if we can use the technology to make it on a bigger scale surprise.

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