Plus, MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab analyzes COVID-19’s impact on park soundscapes, Harvard GSD’s African American Design Nexus launches a podcast, and more of the latest design-tech news from the internet.
Stay-at-home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an unprecedented lack of urban movement worldwide, decreasing noise pollution in city streets to drop dramatically. In the Sonic Cities project, MIT’s Senseable City Lab researchers tracked sounds in five large city parks around the world, comparing noise samples collected before and during the pandemic. Using machine-learning technology, the researchers classified sounds such as bird songs or emergency sirens before using geospatial data to generate visualizations of each soundscape. In their final analysis, researchers detected an increase in bird songs and an overall decrease in human-generated noises, such as construction noise or traffic. In some parks, the study found an increase in human voices but a decrease in human-generated sounds. “COVID-19 provides an opportunity to explore the presence and dynamics of the sounds we hear and how these new soundscapes affect people’s experiences of parks in the city,” stated the researchers in their research summary published in Medium. “It’s on us to decide what sounds we value when cities go back to normal.” [MIT Senseable City Lab]
The COVID-19 pandemic has also decreased travel and daily commuting, resulting in clearer skies reported around the world. But this dip in air pollution has had an unexpected benefit: an increased energy output from solar photovoltaic panels. In the paper “The Impact of COVID-19-Related Measures on the Solar Resource in Areas with High Levels of Air Pollution,” researchers from MIT report that New Delhi has seen a more than 8% increase in the power output from photovoltaic panels. “Results shown here paint a plausible picture: air pollution levels drop notably, and this drop results in clearer air that allows more sunlight to pass through the atmosphere, which increases the yield of PV installations,” the report states. “For Delhi, our analysis supports this picture.” [MIT]