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Tutorial on the Psychophysics and Technology of Virtual Acoustic DisplaysVirtual acoustics, also known as 3-D sound and auralization, is the simulation of the complex acoustic field experienced by a listener within an environment. Going beyond the simple intensity panning of normal stereo techniques, the goal is to process sounds so that they appear to come from particular locations in three-dimensional space. Although loudspeaker systems are being developed, most of the recent work focuses on using headphones for playback and is the outgrowth of earlier analog techniques. For example, in binaural recording, the sound of an orchestra playing classical music is recorded through small mics in the two "ear canals" of an anthropomorphic artificial or "dummy" head placed in the audience of a concert hall. When the recorded piece is played back over headphones, the listener passively experiences the illusion of hearing the violins on the left and the cellos on the right, along with all the associated echoes, resonances, and ambience of the original environment. Current techniques use digital signal processing to synthesize the acoustical properties that people use to localize a sound source in space. Thus, they provide the flexibility of a kind of digital dummy head, allowing a more active experience in which a listener can both design and move around or interact with a simulated acoustic environment in real time. Such simulations are being developed for a variety of application areas including architectural acoustics, advanced human-computer interfaces, telepresence and virtual reality, navigation aids for the visually-impaired, and as a test bed for psychoacoustical investigations of complex spatial cues. The tutorial will review the basic psychoacoustical cues that determine human sound localization and the techniques used to measure these cues as Head-Related Transfer Functions (HRTFs) for the purpose of synthesizing virtual acoustic environments. The only conclusive test of the adequacy of such simulations is an operational one in which the localization of real and synthesized stimuli are directly compared in psychophysical studies. To this end, the results of psychophysical experiments examining the perceptual validity of the synthesis technique will be reviewed and factors that can enhance perceptual accuracy and realism will be discussed. Of particular interest is the relationship between individual differences in HRTFs and in behavior, the role of reverberant cues in reducing the perceptual errors observed with virtual sound sources, and the importance of developing perceptually valid methods of simplifying the synthesis technique. Recent attempts to implement the synthesis technique in real time systems will also be discussed and an attempt made to interpret their quoted system specifications in terms of perceptual performance. Finally, some critical research and technology development issues for the future will be outlined.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Wenzel, Elizabeth M. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Null, Cynthia
Date Acquired
August 20, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1998
Subject Category
Meeting Information
ICAD ''98 International Conference on Auditory Display(Glasgow, Scotland)
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 548-51-12
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.