Effects of Background Noise and Visual Training on 3D Audio
Spatial audio or 3D audio as an information channel is increasingly used in various domains. Compared to the multitude of synthetic visual systems and 3D representations, audio interfaces are underrepresented in modern aircraft cockpits. Civil commercial aircraft rarely use spatial audio as a supplementary directional information source. Although, different research approaches deal with the benefits of spatial audio. In 3D audio simulator trials, pilots express concern over distractions from background noise and possibly mandatory training requirements. To resolve this, the author developed and tested a 3D audio system to support pilots in future cockpits, called Spatial Pilot Audio Assistance (SPAACE).
The experiment took place at the German Aerospace Center’s Apron and Tower Simulator. The developed system creates a three-dimensional audio environment based on normal non-spatial audio. The 27 participants heard the sound through an off-the-shelf aviation-like stereo headset. The main subject of investigation was to evaluate if air traffic control background noise affects spatial perception. The non-normally distributed location error with background noise (\(Mdn=6.70^\circ \)) happened to be lower than the location error without air traffic control background noise (\(Mdn=7.48^\circ \)). The evaluation the effect of visual feedback-based training was the second part of the experiment. In comparing the training session with the no-training session, the location error with training (\(Mdn=6.51^\circ \)) is only moderately lower than the location error without training (\(Mdn=7.96^\circ \)).
The results show that humans can perceive the SPAACE audio with high precision, even with distracting background noise as in a busy cockpit environment. The effect of training was not as high as expected, primarily due to the already precise localization baseline without training.
KeywordsSPAACE Disturbance Aircraft Spatial audio Cockpit Human machine interface
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