Say it slowly: ‘Audio dilation’ could enhance hearing comprehension

PhD candidate John Novak prepares to demonstrate his audio dilation software. - Michael Epstein / Medill


University of Illinois at Chicago
Electronic Visualization Laboratory

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are excerpts from a recent article by Northwestern University journalism student Michael Epstein on the audio dilation project being developed by UIC computer science PhD candidate and UIC Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) student John Novak. Novak is working with EVL and computer science professor Robert Kenyon.

Say it slowly: ‘Audio dilation’ could enhance hearing comprehension
Michael Epstein
December 4, 2014

John Novak thinks that we all need to slow down and listen if we want to really hear a conversation or even your favorite song.

Novak, a Ph.D. candidate studying computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Lab, has spent the last four years developing software he calls “audio dilation,” which can reduce the speed of audio streaming through a smartphone or laptop - music or a phone call - in real time with little to no effect on its clarity.

“If you really analyzed this [dilated musical clip] and really pulled out the mathematics sample by sample,” Novak explained, “yes, there would be distortions in it, but to the human ear it’s a pretty good reproduction of what would happen if you told a bunch of musicians, ‘just play this slower.’”

While the average person might see slowing down the sound as a waste of precious time, Novak believes that giving listeners more time to take things in allows them to more fully comprehend information. Novak specifically theorized that his software could make it easier to translate foreign languages on the fly and could help the hearing impaired.

Novak suggested that his software could be helpful when used in conjunction with hearing aids. For people who have partial hearing loss and can’t hear certain frequencies, slowing down sounds could help the brain recognize what’s missing, essentially filling in the blanks of a person’s hearing.

To read the complete article, see:


Date: December 4, 2014

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