Turning big data into sound

A collaboration between two professors – one of music and one of engineering – at Virginia Tech resulted in the creation of a new platform for data analysis that makes it possible to understand data better by turning it into sound.

This is a pioneering approach to studying spatially distributed data. Instead of placing information into a visual context to show patterns or correlations – meaning, data visualization – the work will use an aural environment to leverage the natural affordances of the space and the user’s location within the sound field.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the work combines elements of music, geospatial science, computer science, and human-computer interaction. It’s the first time a research project led by a faculty member from the university’s School of Performing Arts working in collaboration with the College of Engineering

Ivica Ico Bukvic, associate professor of composition and multimedia in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and Greg Earle, professor of electrical and computer engineering, used unique infrastructure provided by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology to investigate how immersive sound can be used to develop a better understanding of complex systems.