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The science of sound in a workplace environment

A workspace with sound waves floating through

This article was originally published in Commercial Design India.

A double page magazine spread entitled "The science of sound in a workplace environment"

The brand has several state-of-the-art products that accentuate technology within the built environment. Could you shed some light on the innovations happening in Moodsonic’s product portfolio?

Moodsonic is built on a very simple concept: Natural sound is inherently healthy and productive for humans. We feel our best when we’re in natural environments, and bringing natural sound indoors has been shown to reduce stress and improve cognitive output.

However, there’s a lot of innovation required to bring this idea to life. Simply playing a birdsong track inside an office isn’t going to help people – in fact, you’ll make things worse for users.

One of the most important innovations for Moodsonic has been the creation of generative, responsive soundscaping. We discovered early on that soundscaping can’t be delivered into offices as loops. Humans are very good at recognizing patterns. Even when we tested audio loops that were a week long people still picked up on them!

We had to create something more intelligent and dynamic. Moodsonic’s soundscaping system creates audio using generative algorithms. It means that when you’re listening to a particular soundscape, it’ll follow predictable paths each day, but the experience will always be unique. It’ll never repeat.

These algorithms help us address another challenge too: Workplaces are more flexible and unpredictable than ever. Moodsonic’s soundscaping can respond in real-time to many inputs. There are lots of different factors that go into generating a Moodsonic soundscape. Time of day, location, noise levels, and occupancy data are just a few of them.

What were the significant milestones that have shaped Moodsonic into one of the leading soundscape automation and integration brands?

Moodsonic has pioneered the soundscaping market so there have been many milestones along the way.

For me, one particularly important milestone was when we received the results of an in-depth piece of client research. The organization, one of the world’s largest technology companies, had installed Moodsonic in their Silicon Valley office and brought on renowned psychologists and anthropologists who carried out many experiments with hundreds of employees to evaluate the impact of Moodsonic’s soundscaping. It was a big test of our efficacy.

They concluded that Moodsonic had increased focus by 30%, collaboration by 19%, and improved people’s mood and sense of place. I wasn’t surprised – these findings mirror the other research that we and others have done – but to have the benefits demonstrated so clearly for a high-profile client was great validation of our product.

The company’s product and services reflect an ease of functionality and usability at its core. What are the USPs that the brand offers architects and end-users that set it apart from others in the segment?

Moodsonic stands out because of its positive approach to sound in the built environment. Historically, there’s been the perception that to make buildings healthy we need to reduce the amount of noise down to almost zero. But absolute silence isn’t the most productive or healthy soundscape for humans. Actually, people tend to feel best when they can hear nature. That notion, that not all sound is bad for us, is a new way of approaching the problem with noise in buildings like offices and hospitals.

For architects and interior designers, this concept of bringing the benefits of natural sound indoors can be exciting because it gives them a chance to elevate their designs to another level. In addition to a library of existing soundscapes, Moodsonic can create bespoke content too. For example, we recently completed an office project in India where the interior design was based around the Himalayan mountains. You walk into this vast, mountain-top space full of stone and clouds. Then there are tree-lined forest corridors and monsoon-inspired focus spaces. It’s a beautiful building. You can just imagine how much more impactful and immersive that space becomes when it’s reflected in soundscaping too. It really brings the design to life. And, research shows that the benefits of biophilic (nature-inspired) design are enhanced when are senses are aligned in this way.

In keeping with the changing market and consumer dynamics, is the company contemplating any additions to the existing product portfolio?

We have some very exciting innovations in the pipeline. One new addition is Moodsonic’s Insights platform. We originally created our sensors for the purposes of responsive soundscaping. The sensors collect data like activity level and sound pressure level to make sure the soundscaping is always optimized to an environment. But we quickly realized that they can serve another purpose too.

For buildings managers, these insights about sound help them understand how the building is being used. And they add another dimension to existing data. If an organization is also collecting occupancy level data, with Moodsonic they’ll not only know how many people are using a space but how they’re behaving in that space – are they loud or quiet, among other things. We are investing seriously creating an ever more intelligent, ever more responsive soundscape, and these insights play a key role in that journey.

What processes are in place by the company to extend their post-installation services?

Change management is an important part of the soundscaping process, so we collaborate with clients on this. It’s important to communicate any changes that are coming, particularly for people who are more sensitive to their sensory environment. Once a soundscaping installation has launched, there’s a typical habitation period of a month or so, where people are more conscious of the soundscaping. Engaging with people and collecting feedback at that point can help us fine-tune the system and choose the right soundscaping content themes in different areas. After this, the system should effectively sit in the background of people’s consciousness – not calling for their attention but supporting people their day-to-day activities.

Could you shed some light on the company’s R&D processes it has in place for new innovations?

Science is at the heart of Moodsonic’s product, so clearly research is a big part in our product development. As a team we have a genuine passion for understanding sound and how it can improve people’s lives.

We’re starting some big research projects in the next few months. We’re partnering with a large cancer organization, installing Moodsonic in patient recovery rooms. This will generate insights about how soundscaping can positively affect healthcare experiences and help us develop new technologies that improve patient and staff well-being through sound. We’re also collaborating with a large architecture firm to carry out an in-depth study into neurodiversity. We’ll be exploring how soundscaping affects and can benefit people with conditions like ADHD and autism.

We’ve also been the grateful recipients of significant research and development investment, including UK government grant funding, which is a very welcome recognition of our achievements, as well as a stimulus to some very exciting research and development underway.

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