Auditory Display: A Brief Overview
Auditory display, also known as sonification or auditory mapping, is a technique used to convey information through sound. It is an area of study that combines aspects of audiology, acoustics, music, psychology, and computer science. Auditory display has been used to convey information in a variety of contexts, including data sonification for scientific and engineering applications, auditory icons for human-computer interfaces, and auditory warning signals in safety applications. This article provides an overview of auditory display, its applications, and the challenges associated with its use.
Auditory display has a long history, dating back to the late 19th century. The first known application of auditory display was a device created by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 for the deaf-blind writer and lecturer Helen Keller. The device used a series of bells to represent letters of the alphabet, allowing Keller to communicate by having someone tap out a sequence of symbols.
In the 1940s, the first studies of auditory display were conducted by psychologist Leo Beranek. His work focused on how humans perceive sound and how auditory signals can be used to convey information. In the 1950s, the development of analog computers and the emergence of digital computing led to an increase in research in the field.
In the 1980s, the application of computer-generated sound to convey information in a variety of contexts became more widespread. This included the development of auditory icons for computer interfaces and the use of data sonification to convey scientific data.
Auditory display has been used in a variety of contexts, including the following:
Data Sonification: Data sonification is a technique used to convert numerical data into sound. It has been used to convey information about scientific and engineering data, such as seismic data or fluid dynamics. It can also be used to monitor complex systems, such as an aircraft engine, or to detect changes in data over time.
Auditory Icons: Auditory icons are short sound cues used to convey information in computer interfaces. They are commonly used to indicate the status of a system, such as an error message or a successful operation.
Auditory Warning Signals: Auditory warning signals are sounds used to indicate a potential danger or hazard. They are commonly used in safety applications, such as alarm systems in buildings or safety systems in vehicles.
Despite the potential benefits of auditory display, there are a number of challenges associated with its use. One of the most significant challenges is the difficulty of designing effective auditory signals that are both perceptually salient and meaningful to the user. This requires an understanding of both auditory perception and the meaning of the information being conveyed. In addition, the user’s environment can affect the effectiveness of an auditory signal, such as background noise or the listener’s physical hearing capabilities.
Auditory display is a powerful technique for conveying information through sound. It has been used in a variety of contexts, including data sonification, auditory icons, and auditory warning signals. However, designing effective auditory signals that are both perceptually salient and meaningful to the user can be challenging. As research in the field advances, it is likely that auditory display will become an increasingly important tool for conveying information in a variety of contexts.
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Murray, M. M., & Arnott, S. R. (2005). Auditory warning signals: A review. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 118(4), 2269-2295.