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I found the following article about Engineering Sounds on the BBC.co.uk website.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9533769.stm

It talks about how engineering influences the sounds we hear.

Which to me begs the question "as audio people, what sounds do we create that have influenced engineering?"

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I'd argue that sound design for appliances and devices has, in some cases, obviated the need for equivalent interface or user feedback elements. The Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner happens to be a good example. Its audible tones, major ascending melodies or minor descending melodies, indicate all manner of machine state: Malfunction while cleaning, startup malfunction, job completed, low battery, and more. Just by having those audible tones, the top of the Roomba has gotten simpler and simpler since its introduction, and it's never had the kinds of status bars that clutter our mobile devices or the notification patterns that pop up on our computer desktops. In real-world terms, this saves on manufacturing costs by simply having an audio output device and doing all the notifications and messaging in firmware with audio files (or their MIDI-esque equivalents).

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Its definitely about user experience. Now since a lot of the things we interact with require using screens, people want to feel like they are manipulating something "real." Like when you type a text message you can choose to have both sound and vibration and turn them on and off. Now other appliances are going "digital" and require less and less work from our part but in order to have us feel like we have control over things or can manipulate them, we add sounds.

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  • It's strange that we're in some cases fixed to expecting new technology to be in some ways similar to older technology (and therefore find new technology "more familiar", when it's even artificially made to have something that we already know). A sound-related example would be electric cars that people think need to have a traditional car engine sound. Or a computer or mobile phone keyboard that has to have noise feedback (like typewriters had). – Internet Human Jun 7 '13 at 19:18
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As NoiseJockey puts it, sound influences user interfacing and/or user experience, not engineering (which builds up to user interfacing, not the other way around).

I'm not so sure if the given point about manufacturing costs is the reason (or a reason) for using sound messaging in products, although it's arguable that it does happen to be cheaper to implement. But sound messaging is more intuitively understood simply as a more immediate message that doesn't need to be read to understand, which makes it more suitable for simple messages or messages that need immediate response than a LCD.

Depending on the product sound can be an important part of the brand and non-tangible appearance of the product (what does the product feel like, rather than what it is). Few examples include mobile phones and mobile phone application sounds, computer application sounds and car doors.

Which to me begs the question "as audio people, what sounds do we create that have influenced engineering?"

If you'd like to understand this question, I'd advice looking at movies (e.g. scifi) and seeing, whether you find films that have or may have projected some kind of technological inventions and their usage or consequences. That I think is the most direct way to influence engineering and technology development through sound.

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