Teaching Ada’s Data to Sing!


Sonified data can enable those with challenged vision a new way to understand data.

When I stepped into Blue CoLab, I embraced its vision to take the next steps toward data innovation. Professor John Cronin, the pioneer of our team, stated in one of the Friday scrum meetings that his dream project is to sonify (assign musical sounds to) the data produced by our Ada monitoring platform on Choate Pond, thus enabling the user to hear, and enjoy, the modulations of water quality.

Data produced by our Ada monitoring platform on Choate Pond, enabling the user to hear

This motivated me to reach out to Professor Marty Quinn (http://designrhythmics.com/), a data scientist whom I had met two years back during a family vacation, where we happened to discuss how he sonified data in his prior projects. I knew I had tapped into a gold mine! When I proposed a meeting to discuss the next steps of sonifying our Choate Pond data, Blue CoLab students joined in with the same enthusiasm as mine!

So, on the Sonification Team, at our Thursday meetings, we experiment with making Ada sing. Using the Python programming language, we extract, normalize, and analyze six key data streams produced by our pond sensors: temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, conductivity, and salinity. The actual sonification happens through open-source software TwoTone and Highcharts, and we present Ada’s music using a dynamic website.

What happens in our meetings? 
Team members brainstorm about how to make Ada sing most melodically. It often happens that sonification makes us hear some funky tones but Hey! it means we are a step closer to a beautiful song. The Sonification Team’s guiding principle is to realize the potential of sonified data as a means of enabling people with challenged vision a new way to understand and analyze fluctuations in data — while enjoying the pleasant tones and rhythms of our own Choate Pond. We feel if we can accomplish that, we will have also created a new and innovative tool for all.

Important take-aways from our experience:
Never stop being curious! If you feel the desire to show up, make sure you make full use of the experience and our team. We would love to have you. Because whatever you do, you will be creating innovation history right here, right now!

Sonifiers and roles:

  1. Meher “Sonic Meher” Upadhyay – Team Lead, Software Engineer
  2. Zachary “ZacG” Goldberg – Data Sonifier
  3. Karen “Joy-Joy” Joy – UX Designer
  4. Akshay “Shay LaBeouf” Shirsat – Data Scientist
  5. Professor John Cronin – Director, Blue CoLab
  6. Leanne Keeley – Program Coordinator, Blue CoLab
  7. Professor Marty Quinn – Professional Sonification Expert

Meher Ghanshyam Upadhyay

Meher Ghanshyam Upadhyay

Meher Ghanshyam Upadhyay MSx’21 is a Blue CoLab Software Engineer and leader of the Sonification Team. She is studying for her Masters of Science in Computer Science at the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

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