Visualizing Sound, A Takbir Hari Raya for the Deaf

June 17, 2019

Fay Ulrica Lee

For many in Malaysia, religious celebrations are times of joy, happiness and spiritual reconciliation. Hari Raya Eid Al-Fitr is no different for our Muslim brothers and sisters but few are aware of one defining moment before all the celebration. As the sun sets over the horizon and the final day of Ramadhan is over many eagerly await the end of the last Terawih and the call that follows.

The Takbir Hari Raya is a call for celebration announcing that Ramadhan has ended and that the time for celebration is upon us. It is an emotional and spiritual ordeal but there are those who aren’t able to experience the Takbir wholly. There are over 360 million people in the world with disabling hearing loss and that includes in Malaysia, where research has shown that over 162,000 people are hard-of-hearing, and they are the ones who are often left out of this special prayer.

When Maxis Communications, Leo Burnett and Apple, brought us into their team, we collectively brainstormed on how we could achieve bringing their vision to life the best way we knew how.

We hoped that through developing the Deria Takbir app, we can better understand the challenges faced by the deaf community and we hoped to make a difference in their lives. The said app allowed users to “feel and see” the takbir verses through rhythm of haptic feedback, and also cymatic patterns on the screen of their phones, which makes it possible for them to participate in the prayers.

The journey of bringing the app to life wasn’t an easy feat as due to hardware limitations, we came face-to-face with some technical difficulties –– while the vibration feature worked seamlessly with a majority of Android devices, it wasn’t the same with the iOS system. But like all innovators and visionaries, the team found a way to solve this hurdle and further manipulate the frequency of microphone input and vibration motors of the phone, as well as its reverberations capacity to deliver experience that’s deemed acceptable.

The research that went into converting different sounds to unique and organic visuals that were aesthetically pleasing was definitely one of the highlights of the entire process, as bringing the sound of Takbir verses to life into cymatic patterns was truly a unique experience. A lot of time and effort in researching were spent in order to figure out how to customise the haptic feedback of mobile phones to sync with microphone input. Through user research on the hard-of-hearing, a conclusion was made –– a lasting impact is left on the users through visual and vibration elements. We were relentless in our efforts to develop the best in user experience given the platform.

Initial response from the client and collaborative companies noted that transitions between patterns were too simple, so we improved on creating a more aesthetically pleasing visual experience for users. Different types of modules for the app was originally planned but after the results from user testing to the target demographic, other functionalities were added in order to maximise the experience. To ease their troubles during Hari Raya Takbir, a feature like the auto-scroll function was added amongst others.

When you’re working in a very limited time frame, the chances of an end-product being top-notch is usually slim to none, but we managed to deliver and app that was so polished, even the Apple team were impressed and that added an extra morale boost to the team.

Yet again, another group effort from several teams including Leo Burnett as lead creative agency, Digitas as project manager and our team bringing the App to life for Maxis and Apple.

All in all, the Deria Takbir app was a project that really defined what we do for a living and that is creating a medium for people to communicate better with their environment, and each other.

The Deria Takbir app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Store for details visit the Maxis website.