EQO radio

In this project I tried to answer the question: How can we relive and reflect on our life experiences in a playful and surprising way? The things we do and experience in life become part of us and influence the kind of person we become. Often we don't realize how significant a moment or a series of events is until we look back at them later. It's then that we start to see patterns and are able to reflect. However, our brains are forgetful and biased. We tend to remember things more negatively and forget to capture what really makes us 'us'. I wanted to make people see how diverse and beautiful their life really is, from the special to the mundane moments, and help to capture, reframe and reflect on their everyday experiences with the help of EQO: a sound diary that translates data about our life into music

I wanted to create an object that could take data about someone's life and their experiences and represent them in some kind of abstract visualization. Showing all of the data combined could be like looking at a summary and this summary would look differently over time when different things were experienced. Flipping through these summaries, like flipping through a diary, would help to discover hidden patterns and aid reflection. I sketched different kinds of visual abstractions but I found sound to be the most interesting way to make a data summary because sound is very emotional and strongly related to memory. I decided on a radio design because it has playful features that allow you to search for and switch between sounds. I took inspiration from IKEA furniture design and mixed it with design styles from radios from the 60s for a soft and homely look.

The final concept is EQO: a sound diary where the user is encouraged to record sounds from their everyday life experiences and upload them to the radio with a small annotation of how they made them feel. This kind of diary entry is more vivid and less likely to lose it's meaning over time like with writing a sentence. EQO keeps count of all the entries and their annotations and each week translates the data into a musical summary, a melody that captures the overall emotion from all the experiences combined. The user can use the radio to scroll through time and hear summaries from different time periods. By hearing the the summaries they get a more objective and perhaps surprisingly different view of how their life really is. With the antenna they can tune the radio to listen to their recorded entries as well.

A good summary of a period of time with music can be very personal and subjective. Therefore I conducted a user test where people had to record experiences for a week and annotate them. They also filled in a questionnaire to rate certain musical sounds on how they made them feel and to match them to types of annotations. I then mixed a custom musical summary of their week for them based on their musical preferences. All the participants were able to recognize the summary as accurate for their past week. Participants all chose very different sounds so I added the option to customize which sounds meant which emotion to the final concept.

EQO was displayed at the Dutch Design Week 2019 in Eindhoven and was nominated for the Humanized Tech Award 2020. At the Dutch Design Week EQO got many positive reactions with many people saying that they found the musical summaries good at expressing emotion and they really liked the playfulness of the radio.