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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Speaker allows deaf to feel music
A prototype of the Vibrato
The Vibrato is still in development
A new device is helping deaf people to "hear" music through vibrations, 200 years after the technique was used by Beethoven as he lost his hearing.

Different instruments, rhythms and notes can be felt through five finger pads attached to the "Vibrato" speaker.

Brunel University design graduate Shane Kerwin is working on a prototype which he hopes will allow deaf children to join in mainstream music lessons.

If connected to a computer, the device allows deaf people to compose music.

Mr Kerwin said: "Vibrato will mean deaf children can join in with music classes in a way that would previously have been impossible.

The lack of tactile sensation means deaf people cannot easily perceive the sounds being produced
Paul Whittaker
Music and the Deaf

"I hope that Vibrato will help us to integrate deaf students into mainstream musical education and enable schools to encourage deaf children to take up music as much as hearing children."

Earlier this month, it was reported that scientists are developing a cochlear implant, which could allow deaf people to hear music as well as speech, by using a wider frequency range.

And there have been several "deaf raves" in London, with an emphasis on bass and heavy rhythmic tracks, allowing clubbers to feel the music through their bodies.

But the idea of hearing music through vibrations dates back much further. Ludwig van Beethoven was completely deaf by 1818, but continued to compose for another 10 years.

He is said to have cut the legs off his piano and played while sitting on the floor so he could feel the vibrations better.

Paul Whittaker, artistic director at the UK charity Music and the Deaf, said many deaf people were able to enjoy music - but much of the technology was not available to them.

"The lack of tactile sensation means deaf people cannot easily perceive the sounds being produced, so Vibrato is a very welcome resource indeed," he said.

What does a deaf rave sound like?
13 Apr 04 |  Magazine
Breakthrough for deaf children
18 Oct 01 |  Health

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