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Voice Blox is a tactile language learning tool, helping hands-on learners get to grips with tone and inflexion, to help master their foreign language. This multimodal approach helps build memorable learning experiences. 

The tabletop device teaches you how to hear and use the 4 tones of Mandarin by offering a tactile representation of how they sound. Stroke the top surface to hear the ideal pronunciation of a word and give it a go yourself. Then watch the bottom surface move to match your tone, and compare the two. 

VoiceBlox takes a novel multisensorial approach which helps students that require more stimulating learning experiences. We think this same principle can be applied in other imaginative ways; such as practicing compelling public speaking; or even recovering from surgeries that affect a patient's vocal chords.

Project completed at:

Imperial College London

Royal College of Art


Matthew Rice (Software)

Willhemina Crolius (Design)

Yang Gao (Design)


Research and Development

Rapid prototyping
Arduino / electronics

User testing


5 months, 2017


"Tactile Language Learning Tool" 


We first noticed this connection when observing our Mandarin fluent colleague using tonal finger gestures when speaking. And then simply embodied this interaction in a physical device to test our hypothesis. The working model listens to a speakers voice, interprets tone, and provides feedback.

© 2023 Douglas Mann

remind me to change on jan 1st pls :)

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