Auditory display

Auditory display

Auditory display is the use of sound to communicate information from a computer to the user (McGookin and Brewster, 2004). An explicit definition which is used unambiguously in scholarly literature does not exist.

In auditory display research the possibilities of using sound in the real world are applied and extended to the human-computer interface. An auditory display supports the user in understanding any information which is represented in sound output (Kramer, 1994). This sound output can be generally in the form of speech or non-speech, e.g. sonification, which includes several techniques.

Benefits and limitations

One main advantage is the possibility of an eyes-free use which canimprove computational environments that involve human-computer interaction or monitoring ofa system by a human user. A rapid detection of acoustic signals and the omnidirectional featureof the sense of hearing contributes to the effectiveness of auditory displays.

On the other hand, sound output may interfer with other acoustic signals, e.g. speech communication,which complicates the use of auditory displays for certain applications. Furthermore, acousticoutput may be annoying or distracting and it lacks of absolute values.

Benefits and limitations of auditory displays have to be considered when developing an auditory display application.

Further reading

KRAMER, G. (1994) An introduction to auditory display. IN KRAMER, G. (Ed.) Auditory Display : sonification, audification, and auditory interfaces. Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley.

MCGOOKIN, D. K. & BREWSTER, S. A. (2004) Understanding concurrent earcons: Applying auditory scene analysis principles to concurrent earcon recognition. ACM Trans. Appl. Percept., 1, 130-155.


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