There's a man named Frank Swain who is the first ever who can claim he knows what the Internet sounds like. He can hear Wi-Fi signals, simply put.
This isn't some bizarre gene mutation at play - although it is quite strange.
Swain was diagnosed with early hearing loss in his 20s. Now he’s 32 and has been living with a hearing aid since 2012.
Being a science enthusiast, he was inspired to hack his hearing aids the day he got them. Eventually with the help of a sound artist called Daniel Jones, he developed Phantom Terrains, a new tool that makes Wi-Fi signals audible.
The project was funded by a UK innovation charity Nesta. It aimed to “challenge the notion of assistive hearing technology as a prosthetic, reimagining it as an enhancement that can surpass the ability of normal human hearing.”
The device makes use of a hacked iPhone’s Wi-Fi sensor to be able to screen for information such as the name of the router, signal strength, encryption and distance. All of this is then translated into audio. Swain made use of a special pair of Bluetooth connected hearing aids in order to hear the different sounds of Wi-Fi.
“We're reaching a new stage of how we interact with our devices. It's an excellent time to think about what tools we can build when we're in constant conversation with the machines around us,” said Swain.