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Applying Spatial Audio to Human Interfaces: 25 Years of NASA Experience

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From the perspective of human factors engineering, the inclusion of spatial audio within a human-machine interface is advantageous from several perspectives. Demonstrated benefits include the ability to monitor multiple streams of speech and non-speech warning tones using a ‘cocktail party’ advantage, and for aurally-guided visual search. Other potential benefits include the spatial coordination and interaction of multimodal events, and evaluation of new communication technologies and alerting systems using virtual simulation. Many of these technologies were developed at NASA Ames Research Center, beginning in 1985. This paper reviews examples and describes the advantages of spatial sound in NASA-related technologies, including space operations, aeronautics, and search and rescue. The work has involved hardware and software development as well as basic and applied research.

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