Sounds in a Surface application

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I have a confession to make. Never in my life have I ever felt the need to include sound effects in my applications. I have been programming professionaly for over 16 years and it has never happened to me that my manager or a customer walked up to me and said “Dennis, please add a whooshing sound to this button so I know that I clicked it.”

I am sure that goes for the most of you. Well, at least the people who write LOB systems. After all, it would be quite disturbing to have a, let’s say order entry application, make sound every time an order is entered. Especially if that application is used by more than one person at the time, in the same office. Computers need to be quite and business applications even more so.

And then I moved to developing Surface applications. I never thought that I needed to include sound effects, mainly because the whole idea of SFX has never been on my horizon. Until I read this article on Sound on a Surface by Richard Wand. It was quite an eye ear opener for me.

Of course my applications can benefit from the right amount of audio feedback! The Surface unit is equipped with 2 pretty decent speakers, so why not use it? I know that there are situations where sound is discouraged, but in most cases the right amount of audio feedback can make the emersive experience that Surface is supposed to deliver even better.

The danger is of course that I will make a big jukebox or pinball machine out of my application: adding sounds to every gesture and action the user can do. To be honest: I have no idea what the right amount of sound is.

But right now I’ve added one little sound effect: the sound of cards shuffling. I think this sound is pretty effective: it gets played whenever the user selects a product from the product catalog and wants to see the photos associated with that product. The visual effect is that you see a list of photos stacking up, the chosen sound effect fits perfectly.

Since I am not a sound designer and our graphical designer doesn’t know anything abuot sound either, I had to find some good sound resources on the web. Luckily, they are not that hard to find. One quick search brought me enough resources to continue improving my application.

So, turn up the volume and enjoy the even better Surface experience!

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Print | posted @ Tuesday, June 30, 2009 4:40 PM

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