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I see all the time that the recommended ways to mine is to dig deep and listen out for the sounds of monsters in caves.

My niece is deaf, and whilst she loves the building aspect of the game, tasks like "finding caves" or "knowing a monster is behind you" are obviously more difficult.

Are there any settings or mods that can be used to give a visual indication that the player is in the vicinity of mobs? Especially something showing the direction the sound is coming from.

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It might be an idea to submit a feature request -- using a "rumble" mouse. –  Simon Richter Oct 16 '12 at 7:11
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I'm actually pretty sure that there is a minimap mod that shows monsters as red dots around the player, I'm unsure of what it is called though. –  Ender Oct 16 '12 at 8:11
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In a more general perspective, maybe there exist programs which visualize sound. I imagine taking the left and right border of the screen and displaying a spectrogram (high frequency at the top, low frequency at the bottom) might be useful. Unfortunately I am not aware of any such program though :-/ But there is interesting research going on... –  Zommuter Oct 16 '12 at 10:30
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@Ender I think you are referring to Rei's minimap –  z - Oct 16 '12 at 13:55
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In the long term, I would suggest petitioning Mojang for more accessibility features. –  CyberSkull Oct 17 '12 at 17:53
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6 Answers

Most of the monster sounds are low pitch. There are chairs that integrate speakers to let players feel low frequency sounds. You should investigate those.

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While a nifty idea, this doesn't really help with the direction part. –  Joachim Sauer Oct 16 '12 at 13:28
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Unlike subwoofers which are omnidirectional, speaker chairs have drivers in multiple locations. Front/back is difficult to implement, but left/right is trivial, you just put one speaker behind the left shoulder and one behind the right. –  Sparr Oct 16 '12 at 14:58
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You could turn off all music and turn the sound volume up. Lay the speakers on their back, put a thin plate on them and put sand on them. Sound vibrations will cause Chladni Patterns (sorry, the German Wikipedia Article is more informative here...) to occur, similar to the ones you see in this YouTube video:

With some practice, your niece might learn to differ between the patterns of e.g. Zombie grumbling and water flowing.

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Of course this one looks cooler... –  Zommuter Oct 16 '12 at 12:00
    
This is an amazing idea –  Ender Oct 16 '12 at 14:05
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it is great, low cost, highly adaptable, but then the non-deaf people in the room have to listen to ear-shatteringly loud audio (?). Note also that those patterns were created with a very specific controlled sine wave pattern IIRC. –  horatio Oct 16 '12 at 18:29
    
@horatio & Ender Thanks :-) I don't know how loud it has to be. I can imagine by using a thin foil or balloon skin instead of plates, or even opening up the speakers and putting the sand directly on the membrane, it won't have to be that loud. Alternatively one could look for a sound driver that converts all output to frequencies outside human hearing (< 12 Hz or > ~20 kHz). Low frequencies require a bigger surface, increasing the visible pattern resolution as a bonus. Or maybe attach the speakers beneath the table –  Zommuter Oct 16 '12 at 18:34
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note: This is still a draft which I plan to expand into more precise instructions

I'd like to elaborate a bit more on my previous comment, which while also dealing with visualization, is about a software solution instead of the hardware solution I also posted.

The basic idea is displaying a spectrogram together with the (windowed) Minecraft so that the audio visualization helps locating mobs, caves etc. So first some background information from Wikipedia:

A spectrogram is a time-varying spectral representation (forming an image) that shows how the spectral density of a signal varies with time. Also known as spectral waterfalls, sonograms, voiceprints, or voicegrams, spectrograms are used to identify phonetic sounds, to analyse the cries of animals; they were also used in many other fields including music, sonar/radar, speech processing, seismology, etc. The instrument that generates a spectrogram is called a spectrograph.

As an example, here's a spectrogram of a violin:

Time flows from left to right while the bottom represents lower frequencies and the top the higher ones. It's actually easier to understand in animation, so here's some classical music

(there's also the infamous Aphex Twin face, see e.g. here. It's actually incredible what stuff one can do with this.)


Since the location of objects requires Stereo sound, you need a software that can plot a real time stereo spectrogram. (Ok, maybe a simple spectral analyser may suffice, but in order to compensate for the difficulty of identifying a signal, looking back in time for a second sounds fair) I'll assume you don't want to buy a commercial product for this, and why should you when there's freeware available?

The simplest one I found is called Spectrogram 5.0. It's a tiny download and provides a stereo view, although the resolution is quite raw IMHO. (I'll update this answer if you have trouble with the configuration).

The OpenSource project Spek looks promising but doesn't seem to support live output at the moment, while the Overtone Analyzer Free Edition looks a lot more elaborated but I haven't found a Stereo visualization setting yet. Other programs I have not yet checked are SFS/RTGRAM, WaveSurfer, Waterfall Spectrum Analyzer.

Finally, there is Spectrum Lab, which I have used quite some time ago. I don't remember if it supports Stereo, but with the correct settings the results are great...

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This is such a cool answer. Thanks for your thoughts, they were interesting. I'll look into the things you linked! :) –  victoriah Oct 30 '12 at 11:25
    
You're welcome! I'll try and expand this into a step-by-step answer maybe including a short video at some point, but right now I'm unfortunately too low on spare time :-/ –  Zommuter Oct 30 '12 at 13:48
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The Captioning API is a modloader mod that captions the sounds of the world. Some of them are deliberately ambiguous, I only learnt through hearing the noises at the same time.

enter image description here

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Only thing missing is the direction of the sound. –  MBraedley Mar 21 '13 at 17:10
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I wonder if a set of speakers/headphones could be placed/tuned so that she could feel the stereo sound? If you attempt this, it may be advantageous to swap out the normal sounds of the game for ones that are (lower?) tones that can be more readily felt. The sound files are in the minecraft folder under resources/sound/sound3/mob.

I honestly, don't know if this would work... It's just the first low-tech thing that came to mind.

Good luck. Don't dig down. ;-)

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Use Rei's Minimap mod For Monsters, and X-ray texture pack for finding caves. X-ray can be annoying, but you can switch it off easily on the menu.

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Rei's Minimap has a mode to show caverns, which is much less disruptive than X-ray. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 31 '12 at 3:11
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