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SOUND HUNTER: Developing a Navigational HRTF-Based Audio Game for People with Visual Impairments
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC).
2013 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In this thesis, I propose a framework for designing 3D-based audio-only games in which all

navigation is based on perceiving the 3D-audio, as opposed to relying on other navigational aids

or imagining the audio as being spatial, where additional sounds may be added later on in the

development process. To test the framework, a game named Sound Hunter was developed in an

iterative process together with both sighted and visually impaired participants in three focus

groups, 8 usability tests, and a final evaluation. Sound Hunter currently features 20 levels

progressively becoming more difficult, and relies on no stationary equipment. Instead, all

navigation is based on the smartphone’s accelerometer data, where the only requirement is

headphones to properly perceive the HRTF filtering, being delivered through the Pure Data

external [earplug~], using a generalized HRTF and linear interpolation.

The results indicate that the suggested framework is a successful guidance tool when wanting to

develop faster perception-based and action-filled 3D-audio games, and the learning curve for

the navigation was approximately 15 minutes, after which the participants navigated with very

high precision.

Furthermore, the results showed that there is a high need for audio-only games intended for

visually impaired smartphone users, and that with only minor alterations to game menus and

adjustments to the iPhone’s accelerometer function, both older and younger visually impaired

smartphone users can navigate through 3D-audio environments using simple hand movements.

The results also strongly support that Sound Hunter may be used to train people’s spatial

hearing in an entertaining way with full experimental control, as the participants felt that they

focused more on their hearing and even trained their hearing while playing the game, and

sounds were perceived as more externalized than lateralized. Also, the results strongly suggest

that there are two main factors affecting the learning curve for adapting to a foreign HRTF

during virtual interactive gaming experiences; the adaptation to the navigational controls, and

the experience of front/back confusion, where control adaptation is promoted by having a strong

default setting with customizable sensitivity, and the experience of front/back confusion can be

greatly reduced by introducing complex distance-dependent meta-level communication in

synthesized sounds. Using distance-dependent meta-level communication in the wrong way,

however, can lead to illusions of false distance, making navigation impossible.

All of the participants would have recommended Sound Hunter to others, and they were very

impressed by both the quality of the 3D rendering, and the way in which it could be used to

navigate, where one of the participants, a blind expert audio-only game developer, also being

highly experienced with audio-only games, claimed that Sound Hunter offered the best

representation of 3D audio he had ever experienced in an audio-only game

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Media and Communication Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-170447OAI: diva2:836283
Available from: 2015-06-30 Created: 2015-06-30 Last updated: 2015-06-30Bibliographically approved

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