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London Christmas Concert to Have Vibrating Chairs for People with Hearing Loss

By Ian Gillespie, The London Free Press, 11/26/2013
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It feels like I’ve eaten some bad chili. Or swallowed a transistor radio — maybe my daughter’s smartphone — that’s playing the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

Because music is, quite literally, rumbling through my gut.

“Are you sure you can’t hear this?” I ask several people standing nearby. They shake their heads in denial.

I shake my head in amazement.

I’m sitting in something called an Emoti-Chair — an audio-tactile device designed to allow deaf people to “hear” music — that will be used on a large scale for the first time at a concert at Centennial Hall.

“It’s a new way of experiencing sound,” says local media artist David Bobier, who helped develop the chair. “It allows the deaf to experience sound through vibration.”

About a dozen of the hi-tech chairs will be provided for deaf and hearing-impaired spectators at the Dec. 11 presentation of A Christmas Carol, a fundraiser for the local Unity Project homeless agency and featuring narration by five prominent local lawyers, music by Orchestra London and choral voices by the London Singers and H.B. Beal Singers.

Many video-game enthusiasts will be familiar with gaming chairs that feature speakers and sound-responsive vibrations. And older readers may recall the 1959 movie The Tingler starring Vincent Price, which used “Percepto” vibrating devices in cinema chairs that meshed with onscreen action.

But Bobier says these Emoti-Chairs are able to recreate a far wider spectrum of sounds.

“This is certainly the most sophisticated design that I’m aware of, in terms of the range of frequency and the versatility within the software,” says Bobier, who lives in Thorndale, northeast of London. “And the applications are wide-ranging.”

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