Research with sound potential

What started out as a project to improve learning in the classroom, particularly for children with hearing difficulties, is rapidly developing into a product with multiple applications and a potentially global market.


Natasha Perkins from Victoria’s School of Architecture has been collaborating with the School of Design’s Media Design Lecturer, Dr Rhazes Spell, on an interdisciplinary project which aims to improve the acoustic performance of traditionally flat acoustic sheet products. “Our research has indicated that adding form to a flat sheet reduces reverberations to deliver a better sound quality,” Ms Perkins explains.


Following the success of initial testing in primary schools (where poor acoustics can affect children’s listening comprehension and mental processing functions), and at the Auckland Acoustic Laboratory, Ms Perkins’ products have demonstrated potential for wider application in healthcare (where confidentiality and clarity of instructions are essential), libraries and commercial office spaces.


Viclink has been helping Natasha to develop her original concept into a successful commercial venture known as Sound Concepts. “Viclink has been really supportive throughout the process,” says Natasha. “They helped me to protect the intellectual property, and guided me through the design registration process. They also organised some much-needed resource for in-depth market research in the form of students from the Masters of Advanced Technology & Enterprise (MATE) programme.”


As part of that research, students are working to determine which products will best suit the new markets they identify. “We want to go beyond the traditional methods of suspending the baffles or gluing them to the wall (which means they can’t be recycled), and find out what’s most attractive for the end-users,” Ms Perkins says.


Ms Perkins has already begun to forge industry connections, most recently in the Japanese market when she exhibited Sound Concepts at Tokyo Designers' week. For more information, visit soundconcepts.co.nz