November 7, 2016

Smart microphones are recording city sounds to help create a quieter New York

Researchers at New York University and Ohio State University are installing microphones at points throughout the city that will learn to recognize the pneumatic drills, bizarrely noisy Fresh Direct trucks and other street sounds that form our familiar daily cacophony. The recording devices use technology that was developed to identify migrating birds, the way the Shazam app records and identifies song snippets. The New York Times reports that the study will begin collecting 10-second bits of audio at random intervals, then begin labeling the urban din using UrbanEars, a machine-listening engine. The sensors are being trained to identify the many "sonic irritants" that plague city life, including the seasonal (snow plows, air conditioners) and the maddeningly ceaseless (garbage trucks, construction). The project, called Sounds of New York City (Sonyc) has the goal of creating an aural map that could help the city track and control noise pollution in addition to empowering residents to get involved.
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