Music for better decision-making

In its January issue, Wired magazine reports on a new technology that transforms stock market data into music-based sound to communicate meaning:

Abstract snippets of clarinet and harpsichord waft from their workstations. But the financial advisers at Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Credit Suisse First Boston aren’t listening to Philip Glass. They’re the earliest adopters of new auditory display software that translates market fluctuations into sound.

The technology, which comes from a Dartmouth College spinoff called Accentus, aims to help traders deal with information overload. Typical traders monitor a half dozen or more computer screens filled with raw data, flashing numbers, and color-coded pop-ups. It’s enough to max out anyone’s visual cortex. But a trader’s auditory cortex has plenty of unused processing power.

The Accentus software – which costs $12,500 per seat plus $350 a month for each user – relies on an orchestra pit full of instruments to convey complex information. That lengthy marimba trill coming from the left speaker, for example? It represents a trade involving a large quantity of short-maturity treasury bonds. Traders have a Pavlovian response: They learn gradually to associate music with market movements – no training required. Now many use the Accentus software to monitor 15 or more market indicators, each represented by a different instrument.

Wired | The Sound of Money

More information at Accentus, including a neat audio-visual display simulation that showcases the technology in action.

Imagine how useful this could be in other workplace situations, where music-based sounds can complement visual information. For instance:

  • Factory floor – a car manufacturer, say: assembly-line supervisor hears sounds to signify particular events in the assembly process
  • Customer service – call center representative hears (discreet) sounds in a call that indicate events or actions relating to a customer
  • Service engineer – testing complex equipment where specific sounds indicate specific elements in the testing process

Just three examples. Great possibilities.

One thought on “Music for better decision-making

  1. Using Sound to Communicate Meaning

    Via NevOn, a fascinating piece in the January Wired about a new technology that uses the sounds of orchestral instruments to represent discrete events displayed by brokerage trading computers, the concept presumably being that once the trader learns th…

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