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Ep 25: Sound That’s Just for You: How Technological Breakthroughs in Audio Engineering Are Making the World More Accessible with Jen VanSkiver and James Bobel

Updated: Jun 10

Imagine with us for a moment: What would it feel like to be in a concert hall… but having a personalized audio experience created for your own individual needs? And not only that, but someone ten feet away from you could have their own audio experience tailored to their preferences that is incredibly different from your own. 

Sound fictional? Well, not anymore, and it could be a major game-changer for our neurodivergent loved ones.

In today’s episode, Gwen and Kristen are joined by two guests, Jen VanSkiver and James Bobel, to discuss new audio technology that could be revolutionary for those with auditory processing disorder. James describes what this new technology feels like and how it works. 

He also discusses possible use cases with Jen as they imagine just how inclusive the world could be if this technology were implemented broadly.

And stick around for the end of the episode as Rylan describes his experience with HOLOPLOT technology and how he thinks it could change his own experience in a variety of locations.

This is such a mind-blowing episode, and you can’t miss it. Let’s dive in!

Quite frankly, we need your help to keep this podcast going. If you want to support us and the production of YDWAHR, consider donating to our GoFundMe here: 

In this episode, you’ll learn...

  • [01:05] Some really big life updates for both Gwen and Kristen

  • [06:56] How Rylan is handling the big change in the Vogelzang household

  • [09:46] What auditory processing is and how it affects the neurodivergent community

  • [17:07] What HOLOPLOT is and how it is transforming audio engineering by controlling sound

  • [21:07] Where and how this new technology is being implemented

  • [28:37] What it feels like to experience HOLOPLOT audio technology

  • [35:35] How Jen VanSkiver envisions using HOLOPLOT technology and the endless ways it can make spaces more accessible for everyone

  • [47:59] The Last Word with Rylan

If you just can't get enough of us, don’t forget to join our newsletter and check out our other projects.

About Jen VanSkiver

Jen is the Chief Officer of Strategic Growth for Special Olympics of Michigan. Together with her daughter, Lilly, she has helped to facilitate the creation of a first-of-its-kind Unified Inclusion Center. Her role has been critical to the project’s goal of providing an inclusive space where every athlete, regardless of ability, is represented through systems that benefit all.

About James Bobel

James is the Sales Manager for HOLOPLOT. With decades of experience in AV technology, James is passionate about creating more inclusive audio experiences for everyone.

Resources for this episode…

Transcript for "Sound That’s Just for You: How Technological Breakthroughs in Audio Engineering Are Making the World More Accessible with Jen VanSkiver and James Bobel"

[00:00:00] Gwen Vozelgang: If you have an appreciation for honest and sometimes irreverent conversations about parenting and walking alongside neurodivergent humans, you are in the right place. I'm Gwen.

[00:00:12] Kristen Kaiser: And I'm Kristen. And together we have decades of experience parenting fiercely amazing neurodivergent humans, as well as teaching, writing, advocating, and consulting.[00:00:25] All of this has provided us with an endless supply of stories of inspiring failures and heartbreaking wins. 

[00:00:33] Gwen Vozelgang: Welcome to You Don't Want to Hug, right? We promise to come at you each episode as our true selves, sharing the hilarity and delight in the midst of the heart of our journeys. You'll also hear directly from our kids at the end of each episode.

[00:00:46] Kristen Kaiser: Most importantly, we hope to remind you of your immense value as a human outside of the caretaking role you play. So grab a cozy blanket and a beverage and go hide in a closet nearest you..[00:01:00] 

[00:01:04] Gwen Vozelgang: Good morning. 

[00:01:05] Kristen Kaiser: Good morning, Gwen. 

Gwen Vozelgang: Good morning. Holy shit, has it been a week? 

Kristen Kaiser: Holy shmoly, do we have changes going on in our lives? 

[00:01:14] Gwen Vozelgang: Oh, yikes. I don't know if we know how to do life that doesn't include melodrama, obsessive thoughts about our melodrama, and Kristen and I just venting to each other, even if there's nothing to vent about, but in our defense, the last two weeks, wow.

[00:01:36] Kristen Kaiser: Just wow. 

[00:01:37] Gwen Vozelgang: Wow. And not venting perhaps, but like, Oh yeah. Life's been real. 

[00:01:41] Kristen Kaiser: Life has been real. So I'll start because Gwen's is, is it kind of extraordinary, but we have sold our house. At Snowberry Drive that we've been living in for almost 18 years and bought a new little cute as cute little house [00:02:00] in downtown Littleton.[00:02:01] It's so close to the community college. Graham can walk there. He can walk to downtown. We're going to build him his own apartment on the property and he's going to practice kind of adulting. So we're really, really excited about this change. And we recently had, so this is my Grahamism for today.

[00:02:20] Gwen Vozelgang: Hold on.[00:02:22] Can you please give a visual description of downtown Littleton because 99 percent of our listeners don't know what that is and just how charming it is. 

[00:02:32] Kristen Kaiser: It's just darling. It's a couple of streets of adorable shops and restaurants and pubs and, you know in Colorado we love our breweries. So there's two new breweries that just went in downtown Littleton and we are in walking distance, friends. [00:02:50] So I will be drinking the juicy pale ales and IPAs and coffee. There's cute coffee shop [00:03:00] and there's ice cream. So really what else do I need and a new bookstore.

[00:03:05] Gwen Vozelgang: Stop it. Yes Oh, I'm excited and devastated. That was supposed to be yours to do. 

[00:03:10] Kristen Kaiser: Well, I think I still can because it's very tiny. [00:03:15] So we'll see. Okay. So we're really excited about this move. We had to have a big garage sale to get rid of just a lot of really miscellaneous stuff. And Graham agreed to help. in exchange for reaping the financial benefits of the said garage sale. 

[00:03:37] Gwen Vozelgang: Did that happen? 

[00:03:38] Kristen Kaiser: Yes. 

[00:03:40] Gwen Vozelgang: [Gasp] Jerk, you didn't send me any videos?

[00:03:42] Kristen Kaiser: Oh, well, I was too engrossed in what was happening to take video. So we practiced the concept of negotiating. Right? Because our friends with autism can often have very black and white thinking and the price is the price. Well, we [00:04:00] practiced negotiating and the day of the garage sale, Graham spent probably four out of six hours negotiating with people who were not negotiating. [00:04:13] So he would say, I would say that's 15 and they would say, okay, and he would say, but you could have it for 10. Okay. And I would be like giving him the cut sign like dude, they're not asking for it to be lower. So don't negotiate if they're not negotiating. It was so cute. 

[00:04:34] Gwen Vozelgang: He's so generous. 

[00:04:36] Kristen Kaiser: He's so generous.

[00:04:37] Gwen Vozelgang: How much money did he make? 

[00:04:40] Kristen Kaiser: He made, well, we made a total of 250 and Hayden got some for helping with setup and breakdown and Graham got the remainder so he was pretty excited. 

[00:04:50] Gwen Vozelgang: Oh my gosh. He's That's amazing. 

[00:04:53] Kristen Kaiser: Yep, he was excited. 

[00:04:56] Gwen Vozelgang: I said that she was losing her marbles for [00:05:00] doing a garage sale in the midst of a move until she told me the plan for Graham and then I was fully on board. [00:05:07] That's amazing. 

[00:05:08] Kristen Kaiser: Yeah, it was amazing. 

[00:05:10] Gwen Vozelgang: Okay, I'm going to simplify mine as much as I can just to respect the stories in our family, but we are, as of Friday, last Friday, the legal guardians of a 16 year old amazing young woman who has moved into our home and become a part of our family. You can imagine that there's a lot that comes with that.[00:05:36] It's all amazing and wonderful. And just so darn God sent whoever you think God is the God that I believe in. Sends lots of arrows and talks really quietly. If I really listen and this young woman is a gift and it's very complicated. Of course. 

[00:05:58] Kristen Kaiser: yes. A [00:06:00] simplification that has just occurred to go into those few sentences. [00:06:05] I will say is extraordinary because it was very complicated until it wasn't and now it's very simple, right? 

[00:06:12] Gwen Vozelgang: And then all of a sudden it wasn't 

[00:06:14] Kristen Kaiser: yeah, 

[00:06:14] Gwen Vozelgang: and then she's been here so we have been rapidly trying to figure out how to have three teenagers a 13 16 and 17 year old all with their different complex traumas and needs. So, my husband and I, let's just say I've been in my garden just talking to plants and birds a lot. [00:06:38] You will appreciate the fact that I have a new friend who is a robin, and he and I spend lots of time together as I dig. He eats worms and he lands on my hand, and I'm not even lying. 

Kristen Kaiser: For reals? 

Gwen Vozelgang: The real robin that is my friend. 

[00:06:55] Kristen Kaiser: Nice. 

[00:06:56] Gwen Vozelgang: He senses my needs. So, you can [00:07:00] imagine Rylan's reaction to all of a sudden there being a third kid in the house. [00:07:06] So, two days in, he's like, Oh, oh hey, why are you still here? When are you leaving, more importantly? Oh, oh, have you been here? Oh, you've been here since Friday? We're just gonna call her Anna, okay? Oh, hey, Anna. Why are you still here? Oh, okay. Oh, you've been here for three days. Okay. And then, is Anna ever leaving? [00:07:29] It's like, it's, it's, it's undetermined, but it's not looking like it. Like, this all took about a week, right? And then finally, he said, Alright, listen, Mom. I don't get a lot of emotions about this, but I have a lot of questions. I said, okay. Okay. So instead of talking about your questions in front of Anna, let's go into my bedroom and shut the door. [00:07:52] So we did. And he sits down and goes, All right. One, when can I invite Anna to join my Minecraft League? It [00:08:00] was like, Uh, let's wait two weeks. All right. Marks it in his calendar. Can I invite her to join my D& D club? I said, No. Why? She doesn't like D&D. And I don't think that she'll relate well with your club. [00:08:16] Fine. That's a no. Next question. When can I tell people she's my sister? I don't know how to answer that. Let's wait two weeks. Added it to his calendar. Next question. Can I tell people she's my nice sister? Oh, no. Emphatically no. Fine, but she is nice. Right. She just moved in, so give her some time. Last question. [00:08:47] Our brother and sister in law and their kids are moving back from Brazil here. And it's Rylan's, like, favorite person in the world is his cousin Joe. He goes, last question, do you think she'll have a crush on [00:09:00] Joe? I don't know. No, I don't. But maybe, I don't know. So, this has been… This has been Rylan. 

Kristen Kaiser: That just made my whole day.

[00:09:13] Gwen Vozelgang: No emotions. Lots of questions. 

[00:09:17] Kristen Kaiser: I can't wait to hear them all and I hope you're writing them down. 

[00:09:20] Gwen Vozelgang: I am. I'm journaling every day with all the stuff that keeps happening. 

[00:09:27] Kristen Kaiser: Unreal. 

[00:09:28] Gwen Vozelgang: Anyway, all right, moving on to our episode. 

[00:09:31] Kristen Kaiser: We got some great stuff for you listeners today. Really cool interview and we're gonna set it up by talking a little bit about. [00:09:43] Auditory processing and auditory sensitivities and how that looks for our loved ones. 

[00:09:51] Gwen Vozelgang: It's a real thing, and it's something that I would say most people with autism deal with, [00:10:00] right? An auditory sensitivity, maybe not a defined auditory processing disorder. Would it be helpful, do you think, to describe what Auditory Processing Disorder is, KK?

[00:10:11] Kristen Kaiser: Go for it. 

[00:10:13] Gwen Vozelgang: Alright, so the Cleveland Clinic, I like their definition of it. They define it as a condition where your brain can't understand and interpret auditory signals the way it should, that people with Auditory Processing Disorder can hear, but they may have trouble understanding certain sounds, and there are treatments that can help with the condition. [00:10:33] So, it is not hearing loss. It is a difficulty in the way that the brain processes sounds that to other people they can hear more simply. 

[00:10:47] Kristen Kaiser: And sometimes, I know my kids have described it as often they can't filter out the sounds that are less important and focus in on the sounds [00:11:00] like a teacher talking or getting directions from a parent or, you know, one of the many situations where they need to take in a certain kind of information and they can't filter out the other sounds in the room to determine what's more important. [00:11:17] And that really, in a classroom, in an educational setting, can be so impactful because we know, I mean, my kids have always talked about, especially in secondary, in middle school and high school, how loud the classrooms are, how unbearable the hallways are during passing periods. So it's, it's pretty impactful.

[00:11:40] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah. And there's different ways that that can show up for some kids. It's going to affect their auditory memory. So being able to recall what teachers are saying, remembering facts, auditory sequencing, which is understanding and recalling the order of words can be a way it shows up. It can show [00:12:00] up as just an oversensitivity and getting overwhelmed with the sheer amount of sounds. [00:12:06] I mean, if you think about going out into the world on a busy street, the amount of sounds that we have to filter to focus on what's important to us. And not being able to do that. So that explains why sound blocking headphones are often used in our population, which for us, he wouldn't use them because he didn't like the feel of the tightness on his head.[00:12:30] So we really had no options for the filtering of sound. It was a definite struggle, like he wouldn't go to the lunchroom because it was like a barking dog was in his face and, you know, farmers markets he struggled with because there were so many sounds. And then we learned over time that it had as much to do with the visual stimulation as it did the auditory. [00:12:56] So the combination of both of those made it. [00:13:00] Nearly impossible to be in busy environments. 

[00:13:03] Kristen Kaiser: And if you think about it, I mean, Graham loves the beach. It's really hard for him to stay there for any length of time because it's very loud. The sound of the waves is very loud. Yeah. and wind and things like that.[00:13:16] And Hayden also would not wear the noise canceling headphones in school because they were really highlighting his differences and he was really bullied for his differences. So he refused to wear them, but he really struggled to be able to pay attention in the classroom with all the competing noise.

[00:13:36] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah. He was always way more attuned to those social cues.

[00:13:40] Kristen Kaiser: And now, now Jameson wears them around his neck and he wears them everywhere he goes. He does. 

[00:13:46] Gwen Vozelgang: He does. He does. On his lanyard? 

[00:13:50] Kristen Kaiser: No. 

[00:13:50] Gwen Vozelgang: So he's  got his lanyard and his headphone? He does. He's rocking in the free world. That is a heavy neck situation. 

[00:13:58] Kristen Kaiser: It is a heavy neck situation.[00:14:00] 

[00:14:00] Gwen Vozelgang: Oh my gosh. We used to just think that Rylan had hearing loss, and his teachers did too, because every time you speak to him, you will get, and this is true today, “huh” “huh” and we used to get really frustrated, like, dude, listen, well he is listening, the “huh” was his way of trying to process and give himself more time. [00:14:28] Yeah, yeah, that makes so much sense. To think about what was just said to him and it's almost a habit now that he's 17 Anytime. Hey Rylan, do you want to come here? Huh? And we just have to look at him and wait and he goes 

[00:14:44] Kristen Kaiser: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah, and it's interesting because Before you recognize that that is a strategy to gain yourself a few seconds You think you need to keep repeating things and that just dysregulates them [00:15:00] and then prolongs the processing. [00:15:02] It's such a fascinating topic. 

[00:15:05] Gwen Vozelgang: And it increases your frustration too. Yeah. If you're constantly having to repeat, I mean, repeat, repeat, repeat, that's all we've done. I wish I knew to just sit in silence and give him sometimes 10 to 15 seconds to think. And you can almost see it like when his eyes or his head does a little like, oh.[00:15:26] Which is also why don't let your pediatrician ask you that. Can he follow two or three step directions? You know how they ask us that? No, dummy. Because it takes him that long to understand that I said his name. So know we don't give him three step directions, I still can't do that. Yeah. [00:15:46] So I've grown to detest that question. Like, if Tim says, Hey buddy, can you empty the dishwasher? And then he will literally go [YELL] And like, shake his [00:16:00] fists. And I have to look at Tim and be like One. Step. That's it. 

[00:16:05] Kristen Kaiser: Yeah. 

[00:16:06] Gwen Vozelgang: Write it down, Daddy-O. Write it down because the kid cannot process more than one idea at a time.

[00:16:15] Kristen Kaiser: Yeah. It's, I mean, we can do a whole episode on how that manifests and what it looks like, but we want to be able to get to our guests today because there has been some technological advance in audio engineering and sound that are going to blow your mind. 

[00:16:32] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah, and this is a technology that is not out there, but it has to do with the trip that we have mentioned on a previous episode where Rylan and I got to go to Las Vegas, the worst place in the country to experience one of the coolest things we've ever experienced.[00:16:52] And naturally, it was with our friend, Jen VanSkiver from Special Olympics of Michigan, who is joining us on this episode too. 

[00:16:59] Kristen Kaiser: [00:17:00] Yay. We love a little Jen time. 

[00:17:02] Gwen Vozelgang: We sure do. All right. Let's bring them into the conversation, shall we? 

[00:17:06] Kristen Kaiser: Let's do. 

[00:17:07] Gwen Vozelgang: Okay, friends, [00:17:13] So we have two guests with us today. Who we mentioned at the front of the episode, who are just doing some amazing things, and we're pretty psyched that we get them on the podcast, because the first person you'll hear from is working with a technology that is not seen often around the world, and Rylan and I had the privilege of being one of the first in the US to really experience it. So Without further ado, we do have Jenny on the mic, on the block, whatever the hell you want to say, who you have met before from Special Olympics of Michigan, Jen VanSkiver And then we have James Bobel with us today, who is from a company called HOLOPLOT. And I'm [00:18:00] going to hand it over to James first, just to introduce yourself, what HOLOPLOT does and how you and I came to meet each other.

[00:18:08] James Bobel: Yeah, great. HOLOPLOT is a company that started, uh, about 2011, a team of audio researchers set out to develop and research into the technology of controlling sound and as a PA system specialist, myself, for a number of years, you know, I've noticed that we've, we've been doing sound in public spaces for like a hundred years.[00:18:36] And many of the systems and designs that we use today are pretty similar to what we started with in, in the, in the past number of years technology advances and designs started to implement and to incorporate some of the really amazing things like really small amplifiers and new solid state type [00:19:00] designs.[00:19:00] But we're still kind of doing sound the same way, you know, we put a speaker, we pointed at the people and. We do the best to try and control some of that. And HOLOPLOT started researching and developing some really next level technology. And it's a kind of a new thing called wavefield synthesis. And, 

[00:19:22] Kristen Kaiser: oh, hold on, Jim, back up the truck. [00:19:24] Could you just explain that term to us? 

[00:19:27] James Bobel: Yeah. So wavefield synthesis, so loudspeaker systems and designs have kind of evolved to start incorporating. The use of many types of drivers and many drivers in a, in an array, and we've been able to create a little bit of control in how sound propagates. And in wavefield synthesis is sort of a next level of that.[00:19:49] And in order to accomplish it, you need control over an enormous amount of drivers. Now. Some sound systems will have, you know, you could start out with [00:20:00] something basic that has, you know, maybe 10 or 20 drivers. You know, if you go to a club or something, or even in your home stereo has generally a good amount of drivers in it, but to do wavefield synthesis, you need an enormous amount of drivers. [00:20:14] And the technology and the, really the guts in, in putting that all together was something that HOLOPLOT put a lot of energy into the research and how to do it. And what wavefield synthesis allows us to do is to really control audio in three dimensions. Most systems will give us control over one or two axes, but the ability to create sound fields that emanate in, uh, space in three dimensions is what wavefield synthesis does. [00:20:48] So you can create a, a sound field that's emanating from a point far away. emanating from a point very close to your face. And then you can, of course, steer it in [00:21:00] multiple directions. 

[00:21:02] Gwen Vozelgang: Does that make sense, Kristen? Because Jen and I know what he's talking about because we were both, we say in the room, we were where it happened.

[00:21:11] Kristen Kaiser: You were in the room where it happened. 

[00:21:13] James Bobel: I think that, I think. I think it's hard to understand without an example of it, because it's something that you've not really experienced before. Like we've, we've done surround sound, you know, you can go to a movie theater and hear things in surround and cars are getting really good now too. [00:21:29] So sometimes you're able to get some of that, but wavefield synthesis is something that's really never been out in, in nature just yet, because. You know, it took HOLOPLOT 10 years to get really a good working prototype together. And it's really hard and, and frankly expensive to do because of the, the resources involved. [00:21:50] But you'll see more of it because it is a smash hit as you may have noticed. 

[00:21:57] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah. Yeah, it is. So [00:22:00] explain to us a couple examples of where the technology is being used and how. 

[00:22:07] James Bobel: Probably the most obvious place is in Sphere. The Sphere in Las Vegas is about 18,000 seats. And it's in a sphere. The entire sound system is built in behind the video screen and fires through the individual layers of LED and the LED wall. [00:22:26] And in order to do that, wavefield synthesis was required to manage how the sound propagates through the screen and be able to control that. But also a sphere is a really incredibly awful place to do sound. And this is really kind of the only way to do that and have it sound. Not bad.

[00:22:46] Gwen Vozelgang: to put it technically 

[00:22:48] James Bobel: And to be fair it it does a lot more than not sound bad I think it sounds pretty amazing.

[00:22:54] And I think if I could quote Paul McCartney, I think he said it's the best sound he's ever heard Wow, [00:23:00] 

[00:23:00] Gwen Vozelgang: that's worthy of quoting. 

[00:23:02] James Bobel: I think so. 

[00:23:03] Jen Van Skiver: I think paul was quoting me

[00:23:08] Gwen Vozelgang: People tend to steal from you jen like people like Paul McCartney.

Jen Van Skiver: Yeah. Well, i'm jenny on the mic. 

Gwen Vozelgang: Yes. You are.

[00:23:15] James Bobel: So I think the whole idea of controlling sound is, is of course to make it sound good. And so much of what you hear, you know, you hear things from direct sound and then you hear reflected energy. And some of that is important because it helps us balance ourselves and, and be able to localize things. [00:23:33] But I mean, what you can hear from my microphone is a very perfect example of direct sound. You're hearing just the sound of my voice into a really nice microphone capsule. And you're not hearing the room, everything is very well isolated, which is why it can sound, you know, very intelligible and very clear. [00:23:53] So clear sound, direct sound is very good. And controlling sound energy is also really, [00:24:00] really hard. So that was the whole point of what we do and why we do it. And I think we've done a pretty good job at it. 

[00:24:09] Kristen Kaiser: So tell us, Jim, a little bit about how it will change people's experiences of sound because as Gwen and I were talking about earlier, you know, I'm very sensitive to sound my kids and lots of kids with neurodivergent differences are sensitive to sound in a lot of different ways. [00:24:31] How is this impactful to listeners? 

[00:24:34] James Bobel: It's interesting to me to think about how little sometimes we put into the effort of making things sound good. Like, we walk around listening all day long. And in fact, our, you know, of all of our senses, our auditory senses, I mean, they have really poor memory, but they're on all the time.[00:24:53] You know, they're really the only sense that you can't really turn off. You can turn off your eyes by closing them. [00:25:00] You can plug your nose, you can do all these things, but you can't really stop hearing. You know, so much of our life is, you know, focused on and being heard by our ears. And when we think about the neurodivergent population, If you can think that, you know, not everybody likes the same music, well, not everybody likes the same sounds in the same way. [00:25:25] And not only does it create a feeling of dislike, but with some people, it really creates an incredible amount of discomfort. And, you know, engages their fight and flight reflexes, and it's a very emotional experience when it triggers somebody, right? 

[00:25:41] Kristen Kaiser: Yes. 

[00:25:41] James Bobel: So what I think is interesting here is that we're able to really, since we're in control of sound, and I think this is one thing that HOLOPLOT has been, you know, really looking at is like, since we can control sound, we can do all kinds of things. [00:25:57] And what Jen and Gwen brought to [00:26:00] us was  sort of a new why, which is that This sonic democracy of making it sound good for everyone. 

[00:26:09] Kristen Kaiser: Sonic democracy, sorry, but that is like the tagline of the century. 

[00:26:13] Gwen Vozelgang: It is. Jen and I took that away as like the tagline from the weekend. 

[00:26:18] James Bobel: Yeah, it's sort of, I mean, again, it's hard to do, but, but really the other thing about that is that that doesn't mean the same thing to everybody. [00:26:29] Some people like a little bit more high frequency because their, you know, ears are damaged. Or old, or just, you know, depends on what people have a taste for. Um, some people like things louder than other people. Having the ability to create customized experiences is, is, is, is really, it's a whole new thing. [00:26:50] I mean, it creates opportunities for us to be more inclusive in the way we set things up. So if you're sensitive to certain frequency [00:27:00] bandwidth or just, you know, raw volume, you'd generally be relegated to the back of the room or, or, you know, somewhere off to the side where sound has a harder time to get to.

[00:27:10] Gwen Vozelgang: Or where you can leave, right? Where you can escape. 

[00:27:14] James Bobel: Yeah. So this created, and one of the things that we demonstrated for you when you came to see us with the guys from CS Erickson is the ability to create a zone inside. Of the normal area so that you don't have to push people to the boundaries to have them have a less explosive experience.

[00:27:35] Gwen Vozelgang: So James, this is a good time to explain kind of how you set that space up. So now that our listeners kind of have a background, let's tell them what we experience as well as we can. And Jen can chime into this too. So when Jen, Rylan, Jared and I, and Jared lives with cochlear implants, so he is hearing impaired. [00:27:58] So that was a whole different [00:28:00] level of inclusivity that Jen and Special Olympics wanted to include in here as stakeholders. Walk us through what it looked like and kind of what happened when we entered that just empty warehouse of nothing. I mean, it was just an empty warehouse, right? There's nothing special. [00:28:19] There was some plywood. On the wall. 

[00:28:22] Jen Van Skiver: Yeah. 

[00:28:22] Gwen Vozelgang: Rylan was very unimpressed with the surroundings. Yep. He expected this, the sphere. 

[00:28:30] Kristen Kaiser: Oh. 

[00:28:31] Gwen Vozelgang: So yeah. So talk us through what happened and then we would love to offer real tangible examples of that. 

[00:28:37] James Bobel: Sure. The whole reason we set that up is that we were, you know, putting our system into cases and rolling it onto a truck, spending an enormous amount of money trucking that around the country, and then setting it up in people's warehouses. [00:28:52] And I kind of thought, you know, it'd be nice to set it up in our own warehouse and then just have people come to Vegas. They can go to [00:29:00] Sphere and see that experience and they can get in up close and personal. demonstration from us. So we set it up and it's not fancy at all. And I think that that's kind of the point is that we have so much control that we can set this up in a concrete box.[00:29:15] And the sound that we're able to get is incredible because again, we're in control. And since we're in control of where sound goes, we can also be in control of where it doesn't go. And because of that, as we showed you, we can create a little pocket of sound. The matrix array beamforming system, and those beams can be tight, they can be large, and they can have different spectral content, they can come from different directions. [00:29:46] And, uh, we can also even reflect them off of things. So what we showed an example of a very small beam that you can walk into and it's really loud and then you step two feet to the other side and it's [00:30:00] completely gone. And we also showed a, one part of the demonstration we have, there's a, an imagined visual cue where, where there's a speaker, a person speaking far off in the distance.[00:30:14] And then we take a beam and put it right in front of your face, and there's a person whispering, like as if they're standing right in front of you. 

[00:30:23] Gwen Vozelgang: Oh, creepy, like in your actual prefrontal cortex, they're right there. 

[00:30:28] Kristen Kaiser: Yes, you can't see this, but Jenny on the mic was just giving some nice airline stewardess, visual

[00:30:35] Jen Van Skiver: Exits to the front

[00:30:38] James Bobel: Jen really played along with that one because if you close your eyes for that demonstration and just imagine what's happening as is explained when that person whispers in your face. It's really it. 

[00:30:49] Gwen Vozelgang: freaky. 

[00:30:50] James Bobel: It's freaky. 

[00:30:51] Gwen Vozelgang: It was  freaky. The sea captain was in the background, right? On the whole of the ship. [00:30:56] And then is it the bow? The whole [00:31:00] all of a sudden it's like, 

[00:31:03] James Bobel: talking right in your face. It's it's something. 

[00:31:07] Jen Van Skiver: Yeah. It was other worldly. Yeah. And so when we talk about that exact vignette that you just described, James, how that affected me, and then later I was able to learn how they affected Jared and also Rylan.

[00:31:22] So myself, I do not have any hearing impairments. I certainly have preferences like everybody else, but I generally like to rock out at full decibel. And I've enjoyed many a concert in that way. Experiencing this, it wasn't just hearing, just being able to tune in, or it was a physiological reaction I felt.

[00:31:44] And when, after it was all done, it was very difficult to describe or to even process. It was a bodily sensation I had never felt before and actually felt myself out in the natural [00:32:00] world, or even with my AirPods in, in the airplane, thinking this sucks, my body wants to go back. 

[00:32:08] Kristen Kaiser: I have a question when it comes to that. [00:32:11] I think probably this is true for a certain portion of the population, but when I experience music, I get the full body goose bumps, like up the side of my face on my neck, down my legs. And I can only imagine what an experience tailored like this would do to you physiologically. 

[00:32:33] James Bobel: That's a whole nother subject that I think maybe there's another podcast and maybe I could find some people who are experts in the field of psychoacoustics, which is what your brain does to sound when it hears it and how you hear. [00:32:45] So we are very well versed in acoustics in, in sound electro acoustics and how to make sound and how to deal with the energy created by sound. But the whole psychoacoustics subject is a [00:33:00] whole nother thing that's really fascinating to me, but really it's everything, all of our senses are directly connected to our emotions. [00:33:08] And again, when you're in control of how sound happens and how sound is heard. You can really create those emotional experiences, and we've definitely pushed the envelope of that. And if anything, we're in sort of a creative vacuum of what people can do with it now. I mean, we, we have so much technology at our hands in the production space, you know, the audio visual space. [00:33:36] And as we begin to explore multi sensory productions places like Illuminarium have chosen HOLOPLOT because of the ability to create those types of custom experiences. And we've done a number of immersive type exhibits because we can do those things like create small, you know, audio experiences that you [00:34:00] can walk in and out of and create very specific immersive type of facts. [00:34:05] But we also deal with acoustics in a way that. is very helpful in places that are highly reverberant, which again, for the population who has sensory issues, when you hear. If your indoor swimming pool, I think is probably my best example. Every surface is hard. Every sound that happens comes back to you from reflections of a hundred different places and it's really hard to understand and gets really taxing for your brain to keep up with filtering out the stuff that you're not supposed to hear versus stuff that you're trying to or wanting to hear.

[00:34:41] Gwen Vozelgang: And I would say an auditorium would be another example of that space. I know my son and I. You know, if we go to an auditorium for a concert, we sit on the edge because he gets so overwhelmed that within about 10 minutes we're outie, right? And we hope that there's a comfortable seat in the [00:35:00] lobby where we can sit, where I can still kind of hear, but he doesn't have to hear. [00:35:05] And I'll say we stood on the rug in the HOLOPLOT demo room. And I stood in one spot and listened to Imagine Dragons, Rylan's favorite band. They were so kind to play that. At full concert volume. And Rylan was two feet away from me at not even half of the volume. And he didn't cover his ears. He didn't get upset. [00:35:28] He just stood there and looked at me and I was having a completely different listening experience. 

[00:35:35] Jen Van Skiver: I'm very, very interested in this development because. James is just talking about, you know, we're in a, let's say a pool and you have all the hard surfaces, things are bouncing all around. It's hard to, you know, filter in what you need, filter out what you don't, what's extraneous. [00:35:51] And when you think about how hard the brains of the intellectually disabled, the neurodivergent population are working already, literally just to [00:36:00] stay treading water. And then you ask them to get into a situation, maybe it's a classroom, maybe it's a movie with a plot you're trying to follow and you overwhelm them with this stimulus, the information, the energy coming at them. [00:36:16] It is unimaginable to me to think about the, the processing power that must take in their brains, whether just they're spending everything they have to tread water and then on top. And so I think so often, as I have found with my own daughter, who has cognitive processing struggles, is that the environment very much matters in terms of what she can retain, what she remains interested in, and I think that with our population, I mean, I, I know that the sphere is an entertainment venue. We appreciate the optimization of all of that to be able to optimize the experiences for people who already have that baseline. But for our loved ones, we are not at baseline. [00:36:58] And so we are [00:37:00] losing out, not just on entertainment value, we are losing out on information and knowledge. And then also to Gwen's point, the ability to experience the world. together with other people who are not neurodivergent, your families, your loved ones, that type of thing. So I, we find in my family's world that we, we do a lot of bifurcating. [00:37:23] And so we have things that we plan for the whole family, which includes my daughter. And then we have things that we don't plan with her and it would be beautiful. I can only imagine what it must be for other families to be able to just plan. And that is a freedom, a liberty that millions of families in America just simply don't even know that that's available to them. [00:37:48] I think I made a comment to Jared while we were in the demonstration. I said, this must be what it felt like for Neil Armstrong to land on the moon. Like it's, it's unbelievable. [00:38:00] And you want to be able to share it with everybody and so on. And Jared's quipped back to me. He said, kind of Jen, when you think about it, we all knew that the moon was there. [00:38:12] We just had to figure out how to get there for us. We didn't even know the moon was in orbit. That's pretty profound. This is something completely otherworldly. And we don't even know that it's within the realm of possibility. And then the follow up comment Jared made, which will be a period or an exclamation point on it, was the fact that this technology exists, it’s in our grasp. It's criminal that it is not available in every public space. It is criminal because it's disenfranchising an entire swath of people who not only need and desire the need to be included for entertainment and so on and so forth, but just to be able to learn and to be with their loved ones in public spaces, not tolerating the environment, but [00:39:00] benefiting from it.

[00:39:01] Gwen Vozelgang: For the record, like, he with cochlear implants, had the, what felt like a similar experience than us. It was a universally felt experience, even though he has almost complete deafness without his cochlear implants and Rylan didn't have to leave the room. He just stepped off the mat and he could barely hear it anymore, even though five feet away. I was having a full concert volume experience. There was another cool example, which I think is another just offering of inclusion is if you stood in one spot, you heard the narration in English. If you stood three feet away, you heard it in Spanish. And if you stood three feet away from that, you heard it in Mandarin. [00:39:47] So let your mind just take you on how radically inclusive, what opportunities this offers. 

[00:39:55] Kristen Kaiser: I just wanted to add on to what Jen said, cause I think it's pretty profound that [00:40:00] it's really an issue of access. for our population. And when I think about the classroom experience for so many neurodivergent people that cannot split their attention because they can't prioritize the sounds they're experiencing or any of the input they're experiencing, right? [00:40:21] So the sound of the lights has the same. Level of focus as the teacher's voice. And now I'm supposed to scan my worksheet, but also look up at the board and listen to her and see what is the visual prompt from my peers? No freaking way. My kids are outie. They are just, they're gone. This happened to one of my kids, even at the college level, they know very well how to protect themselves and they know how to leave the room from a brain perspective. [00:40:51] If you are able to apply this technology to a classroom, I just can't even think about the opportunities that would [00:41:00] open up for our kids who really struggle to filter sound. 

[00:41:05] Jen Van Skiver: But think about that though, I mean, that's the beauty of this. We've talked about a lot in past podcasts about inclusive design. [00:41:12] The world is not constructed for our people. We are a retrofit. We are an afterthought. We are, we'll get to you. We are headphones and wires and devices, extra things that make us feel not included.  But you didn't necessarily plan with me in mind. You planned with me after or you accommodated me after. And what this technology allows is for anybody to come into our 600 person auditorium and to feel like we knew they were coming. 

[00:41:55] Gwen Vozelgang: Which is in line with the rest of the building. 

[00:41:58] Jen Van Skiver: Yes, ma'am. Thank you. It is in line with the [00:42:00] rest of the building, from furniture to wayfinding to all of those things. [00:42:05] The sound experience is something, like I said, we did not know this moon was in orbit. And so, I want to tell you about how we came to be, because we are this Special Olympics outfit here in Michigan. We are over here in Grand Rapids, which isn't even the biggest city in the state. We are pulling off a world's first, even in this location, which is tremendous, and we are working with some truly outstanding organizations in their field and sector, not the least of which is CS Erickson in the technology sector. They have been working with us tirelessly on audio visual solutions for this space that take into consideration the diversity of ability and understanding that crosses our threshold daily. And so when they began, it was they, who were beginning a relationship with HOLOPLOT. [00:42:53] And in that relationship's evolution, I don't mean to speak for you, James, this is how it was told to me, maybe there was [00:43:00] a conversation that said, well, hey, as we're getting to know each other, you got any cool projects coming up? And the response from Erickson was, Yeah, we've got this thing going on. [00:43:08] We've got this world's first for Special Olympics. There's this whole strategy being deployed and renovating this building that needs careful attention. It needs breakthrough strategy. And we think that that would be a really cool, not just cool opportunity, but we'll challenge for HOLOPLOT, because if you can solve for the complexity here, There's nothing that can't be achieved. [00:43:32] And we loved that idea. And so that very quickly led to, well, get out here to Vegas, you know, to which Jenny from the block said, booking my ticket today. And so we did, and we, we decided to bring out to a stakeholders within our ethos, Jared, who you've mentioned Gwen is a gentleman in his mid forties who is near deaf and wears cochlear implants. [00:43:56] And so, uh, suffice it to say, you know, he needs [00:44:00] his sound in a certain way, amplified and customized in that way. 

[00:44:04] Gwen Vozelgang: He didn't need anything in there though. 

[00:44:06] Jen Van Skiver: Not in there. We knew he was coming. 

[00:44:08] Gwen Vozelgang: He walked in there just with his implants in and like, for example, my parents wear hearing aids. Well, we were in a restaurant this morning. [00:44:17] It was so loud. They had to take them out. The hearing aids often don't work in spaces, right? So then they're just left not hearing and I'm screaming in their face. 

[00:44:30] Kristen Kaiser: And my mother in law has the same problem. But she whispers when she's wearing her hearing aids, and I'm like, I can't, I literally can't hear you. [00:44:38] Like, we're in a store. I can't read your lips. And she's like, I feel like I'm screaming. 

[00:44:44] Jen Van Skiver: Because the hearing aid is an accommodation. 

[00:44:45] James Bobel: Okay, so Jared and I talked a bit about his experience, and I was sort of blown away, honestly. I hadn't thought about how this would really affect how he hears. I really want to [00:45:00] explore that further from a more like scientific perspective. [00:45:03] But my first assumption is that hearing devices are essentially microphones. And as a microphone is meant to capture a sound, it also has to discern what's important to capture and what's important to not listen to. And, you know, we've all done a bunch of video calls and computers are getting pretty good about, you know, being able to cancel echo and to, to key in on a voice and kind of drown out the background and stuff like that. [00:45:37] But what I think was happening is that he was getting so much direct sound in his ears that it was having a hard time amplifying stuff that it wasn't really meaning to amplify. So I think really all he was getting was really, really clear sound. And again, it kind of just really speaks to like [00:46:00] our mission and what we're doing is controlling sound so that it's clear and it can be heard and that it's not distracted by things that you shouldn't be hearing. [00:46:10] And I think really that is beneficial to everyone. 

[00:46:16] Gwen Vozelgang: Universal design. 

[00:46:19] James Bobel: Yeah. 

[00:46:19] Gwen Vozelgang: It just keeps coming out. Yeah. 

[00:46:21] Jen Van Skiver: Inclusive design. Yep, exactly. Exactly. So it's not the same for everybody. It's done because we knew you individually were coming. You individual, your needs. 

[00:46:34] Kristen Kaiser: I think we could talk about this for the next three hours.

[00:46:38] James Bobel: We could. 

[00:46:38] Kristen Kaiser: I really look forward to having you back with us so that we can explore as this technology takes off and people are being more creative. with its implementation, exploring how we can see it changing the lives of the neurodivergent population and the people we love. So thank you so much for joining us today. [00:46:58] And we can't wait to [00:47:00] continue this conversation. 

[00:47:01] James Bobel: Thanks so much, Kristen, Gwen. 

[00:47:03] Gwen Vozelgang: I'll just add that I look forward to talking when this technology has been implemented at SOMI, and then we can get our stakeholders on to talk about. their reactions to hearing things in Grand Rapids using a technology that can only be found in two places or one place in our country, is that right?

[00:47:29] Jen Van Skiver: In that kind of setting. 

[00:47:31] James Bobel: Yeah, there's, there's a few, but yeah. 

[00:47:33] Gwen Vozelgang: We're going to talk more when Grand Rapids is on the map. How about that? 

[00:47:37] James Bobel: Fantastic. We're looking forward to it. It's a fantastic project. And thanks to you for all that you do. 

[00:47:43] Gwen Vozelgang: Thank you. 

[00:47:43] James Bobel: Being an advocate for, for a population is something we need more of in, in every single one of them.

[00:47:49] Gwen Vozelgang: Thanks for listening all, and we're going to hand it over to our kids. Well, to Rylan, because he was there. 

[00:47:55] James Bobel: Say hi to Rylan for me.

[00:47:57] Gwen Vozelgang: I will. 

[00:47:59] Reagan Vogelzang: We know [00:48:00] our moms are amazing, but they don't know everything. We think that you deserve to hear from the real experts. They're kids. Woo hoo! We believe in nothing about us without us. [00:48:12] So here it is, the last word. 

[00:48:16] Gwen Vozelgang: Okay, we're here for the last word with Rylan. 

[00:48:19] Rylan Vogelzang: Hi. 

[00:48:20] Gwen Vozelgang: And he's going to explain to you the Imagine Dragons experience in Las Vegas with HOLOPLOT was his favorite band. And so they chose to air that for you. Right? 

[00:48:33] Rylan Vogelzang: Yeah. 

[00:48:33] Gwen Vozelgang: Can you describe what it was like standing where you did compared to where I stood about two feet away from you?

[00:48:40] Rylan Vogelzang: It was like really quiet. And then where you were, it was like loud. And then other side was like mid ground between the two. 

[00:48:48] Gwen Vozelgang: And where did you choose to stay? Where it was quiet, right? 

[00:48:54] Gwen Vozelgang: Did you feel like you had to cover your ears or have headphones on? 

[00:48:58] Rylan Vogelzang: Nope. 

[00:48:59] Gwen Vozelgang: No, [00:49:00] but I was jamming out right next to you, right?

[00:49:03] Wasn't that so weird? And then when you walked off the rug, what was that like? 

[00:49:09] Rylan Vogelzang: It was quiet. 

[00:49:11] Gwen Vozelgang: So if you got overwhelmed, you could just like walk a few feet off the rug, right? 

[00:49:15] Rylan Vogelzang: Yeah. 

[00:49:16] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah. So what is your take on that whole sound system? Do you think it's pretty cool? Where might it be helpful to have a sound system like that?

[00:49:28] Rylan Vogelzang: Like at school

[00:49:29] Gwen Vozelgang: At school? For what at school? 

[00:49:31] Rylan Vogelzang: You know, I don't know, for assemblies? 

[00:49:36] Gwen Vozelgang: Oh, for assemblies. Because where would you want to be? 

[00:49:41] Rylan Vogelzang: Quiet. 

[00:49:42] Gwen Vozelgang: Quiet. It would help you to be more involved in the assemblies? 

[00:49:46] Rylan Vogelzang: I guess so. 

[00:49:47] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah, that makes sense. Can you think of any other cool places where it might be a good thing to have?

[00:49:54] Rylan Vogelzang: It might be random, but like Maybe the pool, if they're like playing music, or something  [00:50:00] 

[00:50:00] Gwen Vozelgang: Because it's kind of loud at the pool? 

[00:50:02] Rylan Vogelzang: Well, I'm saying like, if they wanted to play music, it would be evenly distributed. 

[00:50:07] Gwen Vozelgang: Oh, okay. So maybe not even just for sensory, it might just be a cool thing to have at the pool. [00:50:14] Because that evenly distributed is exactly what it was, right? Anywhere you went, the sound quality was the same. It wasn't louder in the front than it was in the back. Yeah, that was another cool aspect that we didn't really talk about. Alright, one last question. What does it feel like to you if there's a lot of loud chaos around you, a lot of loud noise?

[00:50:36] Rylan Vogelzang: Well, to me, right now it's fine, but before, it was not fine. 

[00:50:42] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah. When you were younger. 

[00:50:44] Rylan Vogelzang: Yeah. 

[00:50:45] Gwen Vozelgang: And that was before we did Brain Harmony, which is an auditory listening program that we did for about a year, and that really helps reduce your noise sensitivity because it uses bone conduction. [00:51:00] And it really targets the parts of the brain that are sensitive. [00:51:03] So we might do a whole nother episode on that because that was a really helpful technology. Wasn't it? 

[00:51:08] Rylan Vogelzang: Yeah. 

[00:51:09] Gwen Vozelgang: Yeah. All right. You can be done. Thanks for joining us today, Ry. 

[00:51:13] Rylan Vogelzang: Okay. Thank you. 

[00:51:16] Gwen Vozelgang: Thanks for joining us for this episode of You Don't Want a Hug, Right? We'd sure appreciate it if you'd subscribe to our show and your favorite podcast app. [00:51:25] And if you want to win listener of the month, you can rate and review the show preferably with five stars. 

[00:51:32] Kristen Kaiser: If you'd like to stay up on all our happenings, resources, and bonus material, join our newsletter at

[00:51:40] Gwen Vozelgang: Remember, even the best caretakers make panic rooms out of their closets. No judgment here, friends.[00:51:45] So shoulders back, double chins up, we are all in this together.

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