This thesis presents the design and development of an evaluation system for generating audio displays that provide feedback to persons performing navigation tasks. It first develops the need for such a system by describing existing wayfinding solutions, investigating new electronic location-based methods that have the potential of changing these solutions and examining research conducted on relevant audio information representation techniques. An evaluation system that supports the manipulation of two basic classes of audio display is then described. Based on prior work on wayfinding with audio display, research questions are developed that investigate the viability of different audio displays. These are used to generate hypotheses and develop an experiment which evaluates four variations of audio display for wayfinding. Questions are also formulated that evaluate a baseline condition that utilizes visual feedback. An experiment which tests these hypotheses on sighted users is then described.

Results from the experiment suggest that spatial audio combined with spoken hints is the best approach of the approaches comparing spatial audio. The test experiment results also suggest that muting a varying audio signal when a subject is on course did not improve performance. The system and method are then refined. A second experiment is conducted with improved displays and an improved experiment methodology. After adding blindfolds for sighted subjects and increasing the difficulty of navigation tasks by reducing the arrival radius, similar comparisons were observed. Overall, the two experiments demonstrate the viability of the prototyping tool for testing and refining multiple different audio display combinations for navigational tasks. The detailed contributions of this work and future research opportunities conclude this thesis.

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Thesis Advisor:
Marilyn Tremaine

Award Date:
December 1, 2007

New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, New Jersey, USA

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