NRL Researchers' Audio Alerting Technology Part of HAIL-SS Transition to Aegis

8/1/2005 - 26-05r
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Researchers in the Naval Research Laboratory's Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence (Code 5510) contributed to the HAIL technology transition by developing and evaluating a method of encoding urgency in sound. Research in England and at the Army Research Lab has shown that urgency can be represented aurally, and this can shorten an operator's response times. However, the challenge with encoding urgency in Aegis is that its sole sound device is a buzzer that can only be turned on and off. NRL's Derek Brock designed a set of buzzer sequences that were patterned from the original urgency research and that also incorporated musical notions of temporal phrasing. These designs were evaluated in laboratory experiments. Subsequent revisions were delivered to Lockheed Martin for incorporation into HAIL-SS as part of the complete alert management solution. The new audio alerts are part of the transition of HAIL-SS into Aegis.

In addition to this alerting research, the audio lab in NRL's Interface Design and Evaluation Section is also investigating the use of 3-dimensional alerts to direct a user's attention to individual displays. The research involves the use of a prototype of the multi-modal watchstation, which has three large screens and is the standard watchstation design in the DD(X), the Navy's future multi-mission surface combatant. This audio research has revealed that operator decision and response times in this three-screen tactical information environment can be reduced by up to 20 percent through the use of spatial alerting. In order to verify that spatial audio cues will work in real shipboard environments, NRL researchers employ an audio simulation lab that includes 28 speakers arranged in a sphere around the workstation. This array is also used for basic research in auditory perception. For example, in a recent study, it was found that the perception of moving auditory objects can be created with a simple amplitude panning technique using speakers that do not lie on the axis of movement. Ordinarily sound is panned between speakers to create the perception of movement, but this panning technique at NRL results in a moving image that seems to be projected. Other techniques that are known to "project" sound spatially are not being used in this demonstration.

Finally, NRL researchers in the audio lab are also investigating advanced audio techniques such as "self-organizing auditory displays" (SOADs) that dynamically parameterize sound presentations (both speech and non-speech) to meet the information needs of the listener, in helmet speaker systems that produce spatial sound, and a simple remote listening device that capitalizes on head-dimensions to produce an understandable monitoring system.

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