Visual Search Performance With 3-D Auditory Cues: Effects of Motion, Target Location, and Practice

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Objectives: We evaluate visual search performance in both static (nonmoving) and dynamic (moving) search environments with and without spatial (3-D) auditory cues to target location. Additionally, the effects of target trajectory, target location, and practice are assessed. Background: Previous research on aurally aided visual search has shown a significant reduction in response times when 3-D auditory cues are displayed, relative to unaided search. However, the vast majority of this research has examined only searches for static targets in static visual environments. The present experiment was conducted to examine the effect of dynamic stimuli upon aurally aided visual search performance. Method: The 8 participants conducted repeated searches for a single visual target hidden among 15 distracting stimuli. The four main conditions of the experiment consisted of the four possible combinations of 3-D auditory cues (present or absent) and search environment (static or dynamic). Results: The auditory cues were comparably effective at reducing search times in dynamic environments (—25%) as in static environments (—22%). Audio cues helped all participants. The cues were most beneficial when the target appeared at large eccentricities and on the horizontal plane. After a brief initial exposure to 3-D audio, no training or practice effects with 3-D audio were found. Conclusion: We conclude that 3-D audio is as beneficial in environments comprising moving stimuli as in those comprising static stimuli. Application: Operators in dynamic environments, such as aircraft cockpits, ground vehicles, and command-and-control centers, could benefit greatly from 3-D auditory technology when searching their environments for visual targets or other time-critical information.



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