SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
April 15, 2010

'Emotichair' helps people feel the music

Posted: 11:19 AM ET

Say you're watching a scary movie. The tension builds. The villain is about to grab someone. There's no dialogue, just ominous music.

If you can't hear, all you get is a caption that may say something like "scary music playing."

"Of course, that's not very scary at all, and, in fact, it probably takes away from the experience," said Carmen Branje, a researcher at the Center for Learning Technology in Toronto, Canada.

That makes it hard to really get an emotional sense of what's going on.

Cue a possible solution: Find a way to make people, especially those who can't hear, actually feel the music.

That's the idea behind a prototype called the Emotichair, which Branje and colleague Maria Karam demonstrated this week at the Computer-Human Interaction Conference here in Atlanta, Georgia.

Emotichair is basically just a camping chair fitted with speakers that play at different frequencies, vibrating a person's upper back with high pitches and the bottom of a person's thighs with lower ranges.

All of the emotional content of a song may not come across in these vibrations, Branje concedes, but he says much of it does.

"You experience the play between the different elements of the music," he said. "And what we've found is people were able to tell the emotion of the piece" just by feeling it vibrate their back and legs.

Karam, who said the Emotichair has been 4 years and $500,000 in development, said the chair essentially makes a person hear with their body.

"We're just turning your skin into a cochlea," she said. "Your skin is going to be like an ear."

The Emotichair concept will be available for purchase starting in September. One chair costs between $500 and $1,000, and the chairs likely will be tested in two Canadian movie theaters in coming months, she said.

One big problem with the chair: It's super noisy. Low-quality speakers create the vibrations on the back of the chair, and they buzz and bark while the chair is in use. That could be a problem in movie theater or concert settings, although Karam said the chair has been used at acoustic concerts with no problem.

What do you think? Does the chair sound useful, particularly for deaf people or those who are hard of hearing? Or is it just an expensive gimmick?

Posted by:
Filed under: Music • technology

Share this on:
Todd   April 15th, 2010 4:20 pm ET

"Emotichair is basically just a camping chair fitted with speakers that play at different frequencies, vibrating a person's upper back with high pitches and the bottom of a person's thighs with lower ranges."

Sounds like a day at my parent's house.

Una silla para ayudar a sentir la música (eng)   April 16th, 2010 2:46 pm ET

[...] Una silla para ayudar a sentir la música (eng)  por quays hace 5 minutos [...]

kalel of krypton   April 16th, 2010 4:55 pm ET

coolest invention i have seen in the past 10 years.
as for the vibrations all products are glitchy at first.

Gertsoge   April 17th, 2010 4:46 pm ET

I think, the 'Emotichair' is interesting, but it cannot to help deaf men to feel 100% pleasure for music.

I know one interesting site for / about deaf, but there texts are only Ukrainian and russian languages.

News paper "Our life" from Ukrainian Department Deaf people –

Kam   April 18th, 2010 3:23 pm ET

I wonder if this was designed with the input from the deaf community? My deaf friends already deal with this with regular speakers and subwoofer to feel the bass. I guess it's cool that you can feel it all over your body.

Grrr   April 18th, 2010 7:45 pm ET

Stupid implementation of an old idea. Works much better with just vibrations directly against the head or collar bones, without all the problems with atmospheric bleed from speakers. Dumb dumb dumb.

S.C.W.   April 19th, 2010 7:48 pm ET

I wish I'd had one for my mom after she became deaf. I would have gladly paid $1,000 for one. Especially since the $5,000 hearing aids didn't do anything for her.

Monkey   April 20th, 2010 9:49 am ET

The comments are great, even the negative ones... but I have to say that this is not just the same old idea, it is very different, and unless you understand what is going on, it may be quite easy to think this is no different than feeling stereo speakers.

Actually, the theory behind this is very unique, and very relevant from a tactile point of view. This is not specifically targeting the Deaf community, rather, it is a system aimed at helping people to improve the tactile senses. It can help us learn how to better use the skin to process complex information.

Over and out.

Ganar » Blog Archive » … en esta ocasión, dura lata…   April 21st, 2010 4:05 pm ET

[...] [...]

Mark   April 21st, 2010 4:22 pm ET

It took 1/2 million dollars to tape some foam to a beach chair and attach some speakers? Who are these guys, Haliburton?

IzzysGirl   April 21st, 2010 4:51 pm ET

Tammy . . . lovely. I do, for one.

Alex   December 27th, 2010 9:12 am ET

Very interesting and cool!)
welcome to site of organization by deaf children and teens "Our happy life" –

Meet the huggable, semi-robotic (and semi-creepy) pillow phone | Bangladesh News   May 1st, 2012 8:21 am ET

[...] via touch, or to enhance media-viewing with haptic feedback. A couple we've reported on: The Emotichair aims to augment the movie-going experience by sending vibrations into the viewer's spine; and there have been various attempts to let [...]

Una almohada te abraza ‘al ritmo’ de tus seres queridos - BB.COM.VE   May 5th, 2012 1:04 pm ET

[...] par de los que hemos informado en: La Emotisilla aumenta la experiencia de las películas mandando vibraciones a la columna de los observadores; y ha habido varios intentos de dejar que las [...]

In home Personal training Long Island   December 5th, 2013 9:29 am ET

Way to go Center for Learning Technology! We forget how hard life can be sometimes. Could you imagine not being able to hear. We all have gotten emotional from music? I think this is a great way for people to get the emotional connection that can't through hearing. Great job, Branje and Maria Karam

Kurt Lazano   January 4th, 2014 11:45 pm ET

Information that might be needed a lot of people ..! Keep on sharing for a better life..

Deann Rebello   December 8th, 2018 4:49 am ET

Hi John,

This is great article, thanks for sharing 😉

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP