From sound to shape: auditory perception of drawing movements


  • Thoret Etienne
  • Aramaki Mitsuko
  • Kronland-Martinet Richard
  • Velay Jean-Luc
  • Ystad Sølvi


  • Biological motion
  • Action-Perception
  • Friction sound synthesis

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This study investigates the human ability to perceive biological movements through friction sounds produced by drawings and, furthermore, the ability to recover drawn shapes from the friction sounds generated. In a first experiment, friction sounds, real-time synthesized and modulated by the velocity profile of the drawing gesture, revealed that subjects associated a biological movement to those sounds whose timbre variations were generated by velocity profiles following the 1/3 power law. This finding demonstrates that sounds can adequately inform about human movements if their acoustic characteristics are in accordance with the kinematic rule governing actual movements. Further investigations of our ability to recognize drawn shapes were carried out in two association tasks in which both recorded and synthesized sounds had to be associated to both distinct and similar visual shapes. Results revealed that, for both synthesized and recorded sounds, subjects made correct associations for distinct shapes, while some confusion was observed for similar shapes. The comparisons made between recorded and synthesized sounds lead to conclude that the timbre variations induced by the velocity profile enabled the shape recognition. The results are discussed in the context of the ecological and ideomotor frameworks.

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