Georgia Tech Sonification Lab
School of Psychology - Georgia Institute of Technology
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:

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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.
          [project details...]

Individual Differences and Training in Auditory Displays
Every person hears things slightly differently. How can 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 what circumstances.
          [project details...]

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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.
          [project details...]

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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.
          [project details...]

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!).
          [project details...]

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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. See GT Sonification Lab Driving Research web page.

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.
          [project details...]

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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.
          [project details...]

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 Java/JavaSound.
          [project details & download...]

Audio Abacus
Innovative method 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 Auditory Displays
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.
          [project details...]

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
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...]

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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.

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Accessible Games and Sports
The GT Sonification Lab is studying how to make games and sports more accessible to people with disabilities. This includes being a spectator, as well as an active participant! We are partners in the Games @ Georgia Tech Initiative. We have several Accessible Games and Sports projects underway, such as the Accessible Fantasy Sports project, Aquarium Fugue, Audio Lemonade Stand, STEM Education Games, MIDI Mercury, and more.
          [games and sports project webpage...]

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