- Research Overview
The Sonification Lab is actively involved in many research projects, usually involving interdisciplinary teams from all over Georgia Tech, and often from all over the world. Some
of the more recent and major ones are listed below. Some projects have separate
web sites for more information, and most projects have items in the Publications
list. For information about getting involved in our research (paid, volunteer, credit, collaborator), please see our Opportunities page, where there is a list of personnel needs for the projects. Alternatively you can simply contact us for more details.
- Research "Pillars"
The current core research activities in the Sonification Lab generally seek to study and apply auditory and multimodal user interfaces in one of four main topic domains, or "pllars":
In addition,we have many other projects in:
- Formal Education Pillar
How can we use sonification, auditory displays, and sound in general to help make formal eduction (i.e., material taught in schools) more effective, more engaging, and more universally accessible? There are many issues to tackle, including perception, cognition, training, technology, policy, and accessibility of the technology and the information to all learners. Our current focus is on science, technology, engineering, and math (so-called "STEM"), as well as statistics.
- Auditory Graph Design and Context Cues
Creating a (visual) graph without axes,
tick marks, or labels
will generally earn you an 'F' in highschool math class. After all, it is
just a squiggle on a page without the added context that those things
provide. Auditory graphs require the same elements, so we are studying how
best to create them, introduce them into an auditory graph, and examine
how people learn to use them for better (auditory) graph comprehension.
- Individual Differences and Training in Auditory Displays
Every person hears things slightly differently.
we determine, in advance, what these differences will make (if any) in the
perception and comprehension of auditory graphs and sonification? What are
the characteristics of the listener that predict performance? We are studying
a range of factors, including perception, cognition, and listening experience.
One major factor we are considering is whether a listener is sighted or
blind, and if blind, at what age blindness occurred.
Sonifications and auditory graphs are relatively new,
so few people have experience with them. As a result, there is a great need
to understand how to train listeners to use and interpret auditory displays.
We are looking at training types, including simple exposure, part-task training,
whole-task training, and others, to determine what works best, and under
- Informal Learning Environments Pillar
Much learning takes place outside of schools, in informal learning environments (ILEs) such as museums, science centers, aquaria, and other field trip sites. Auditory displays and sonification, along with music and other sounds can play a major role in increasing successful participation in these informal learning places. We need to understand what participation, learning, and entertainment mean, and how we can implement multimodal technology to effectively support all visitors, including those who may have disabilities or special needs.
- The Accessible Aquarium Project
Museums, science centers,
zoos and aquaria are faced with
educating and entertaining an increasingly diverse visitor population with
varying physical and sensory needs. There are very few guidelines to help
these facilities develop non-visual exhibit information, especially for
dynamic exhibits. In an effort to make such informal learning environments
(ILEs) more accessible to visually impaired visitors, the Georgia Tech Accessible
Aquarium Project is studying auditory display and sonification methods for
use in exhibit interpretation.
- Electronic Devices Pillar
Many electronic devices, ranging from computers to mobile phones, to home appliances, can be more usable, more effective, more entertaining, and much more universally accessible when they have an appropriate and well-designed multimodal interface. Often, this means complementing or enhancing an existing visual display with an auditory display. In some cases, a purely auditory interface is appropriate.
- Advanced Auditory Menus
A common and practical
application of sound in the human-computer
interface is the auditory menu. Generally, menu items are spoken via text-to-speech
(TTS), and the user simply navigates to the menu item of interest, and presses
a button to enter that menu or execute the menu command. We are studying
advances to this paradigm, including new interaction techniques, in desktop interfaces, mobile devices, in-vehicle interfaces, among others. Enhancement techniques include, for example, "spearcons", "spindex", and auditory scrollbars. Check out our
Auditory Menus Tech Report, or our many other publications and software.
- Bone Conduction Headsets ("bonephones")
For many real-world applications
that use auditory displays, covering the ears of the
user is not acceptable (e.g., pedestrians amongst traffic; firefighters
who need to communicate). We are studying the use of bone conduction technology
as a method of transmitting auditory information to a listener, without
covering the ears. Our research ranges from basic psychophysics (minimum
hearing thresholds, frequency response, etc.), all the way up to 3D audio
via bonephones (yes, if can be done!).
- Driving and In-Vehicle Technologies Pillar
Driving is a very challenging task, with considerable visual attention being required at all times. Modern vehicles include many secondary tasks ranging from entertainment (e.g., radio or MP3 players) to navigation (e.g., GPS systems), and beyond (e.g., electronic communications, social media). While it is generally safest to do no secondary tasks while driving, carefully designed auditory user interfaces can allow safer completion of secondary tasks. Further, multimodal displays can serve as assistive technologies to help novice, tired, or angry drivers perform better, as well as helping drivers with special challenges, such as those who have had a traumatic brain injury or other disability.
- In-Vehicle Assistive Technology (IVAT) Project
The IVAT Project is focusing on helping drivers who have perceptual, cognitive, attention, decision-making, and emotion regulation challenges, often the result of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Carefully designed software solutions, running on hardware that is integrated into the vehicle's data streams, are proving to be very effective in helping these individuals be better, safer, more indepedent drivers. We are leveraging our experience in multimodal user interfaces of all types, and utilizing the many facilities available to us, including the GT School of Psychology's Driving Research Facility.
- Other Sonification Research & Applications
This research seeks to discover the optimal data-to-display mappings for
use in scientific sonification and investigate whether these optimal mappings
vary within and/or across fields of application.
- SWAN: System for Wearable Audio Navigation
SWAN is an audio-only
wayfinding and navigation system to help those who cannot see (temporarily
or permanently) to navigate and learn about their environment. It uses a combination of spatialized speech and non-speech sounds to lead a user along a path to a destination, while presenting sounds indicating the location of environmental features such as benches, shops, buildings, rooms, emergency exits, etc. It is useful as an assistive technology for people with functional vision loss, and also as a tool for firefighters, first responders, or other tactical personnel.
- Sonification Sandbox
Simple yet powerful
software package for creating data sonifications
and auditory graphs. Includes the ability to import data, map data to sound
parameters in multiple flexible ways, add contextual sounds like click tracks
and notifications, and save the resulting sound file. Written in cross-platform
[project details & download...]
- Audio Abacus
to display specific data values, like
the exact price of a stock or the precise temperature. Standalone application,
or plugin for the Sonification Sandbox. Written in cross-platform Java/JavaSound.
[details & download...]
- SoundScapes: Ecological Peripheral
We use natural sounds
such as birdcalls, insect songs, rain,
and thunder to create an immersive soundscape to sonify continuous
data such as the stock market index. This approach leads to a display that
can be easily distinguished from the background when necessary, but can
also be allowed to fade out of attention, and not be tiring or "intrusive"
when not desired.
- Brainwave Sonification
Turning EEG data into
3D spatialized audio in order to study
source location, type, and timing for neural events. The multichannel EEG data are turned into multichannel audio, via direct audification, or via a transformation into a sonification.
- Mad Monkey
is software which allows a designer to prototype a spatialized audio environment, and contains much of the functionality that a full-fledged design environment should have.
MAD Monkey is written in MATLAB. Any computer with MATLAB installed should be able to run the application.
[project details & download...]
- Human Computer Interaction Research
While we have projects underway in all aspects of HCI, we focus primarily
on non-traditional interfaces. This means pretty much anything other
than the usual WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, & Pointers) type of interface.
Everything from novel hardware interfaces, challenging usage environments,
uncommon or highly specific user needs, to new an unexplored task domains.
Examples range from submarine control & display, space station tasks, interfaces
for persons with visual impairments, medical and military tactical interfaces,
multimodal and non-visual interfaces. In addition to the projects listed above...
- Human Factors and Medical Technology
With the increase of technology
in the practice of medicine,
we have begun to study both the individual display components (both auditory
and visual),a nd how the technology is deployed. The MedTech Project is
a collaborative effort to examine how the physical arrangement of technology
(e.g., a desktop computer in a doctor's examination room) affects the quality,
or perceived quality, of patient care.
- Eye Tracking and HCI
Modern interface design
can be informed by the results
of eye tacking studies, in addition to the more traditional reaction time
and accuracy studies. We are applying eye tracking techniques to examine
interaction with, for example, dialog boxes and other widgets.