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Exploring the use of data sonification to convey relative spatial information

Dion Cory Buhman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The use of data sonification to convey relative spatial location was examined in a series of three target location experiments. Participants were presented spatial displays that resembled a traditional visual radar interface. The center marker, or localization point, was located in the middle of the display, with targets surrounding that point representing relative spatial location to the center. Bivariate data samples were randomly generated to represent the X and Y coordinates of the targets in each display. The fundamental principle of the experimental auditory display was to represent one variable (the dependent or Y-axis variable) by pitch and the other variable (the independent or X-axis variable) by time. Sonifying the data in this manner created a symbolic two-dimensional representation of space. Experiment 1 examined the performance equivalence between visual and sonified spatial displays of the same data. Experiment 2 explored the effects of supplementing visual spatial displays with sonification technology (redundant coding display condition). Experiment 3 examined the performance equivalence between all three display medium (visual, sonified, and redundant) in conjunction with a sequential intervening distracter task. Results demonstrated the potential of 2-dimensional sonified data displays to convey relative spatial location. Target reconstruction performance measures in the sonified display conditions were nearly equivalent to visual performances. The data also illustrated the potential benefits of supplementing traditional visual displays with sonification technology. The redundant display condition consistently outperformed the visual display condition on target reconstruction measures. The results from Experiment 3 also suggested that the display conditions behave similarly in the presence of a distracter task. The hypothesized benefits of sonification in eyes-busy environments (modality specific interference) were not realized. It is suggested that participants in the sonified spatial display conditions may have adopted an immediate “visual transfer” strategy, and this strategy eliminated or hampered the potential benefits of the sonified displays when coupled with a visual distracter task. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Audiology|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Buhman, Dion Cory, "Exploring the use of data sonification to convey relative spatial information" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9929186.