Audio on The Internet

Sound as an Interface to The World

Humans embody the physiology needed to absorb information in the form of sound. Just as the eye can perceive many different variations of light - hue, briteness, contrast - the ear is capable of sensing a vast array of sounds through the alteration of timbre, loudness, and pitch. The mind can then associate these sounds with events, objects, or abstract ideas. Most commonly, sound-as-information exists as speech or music, and indeed this will continue on the Internet. Audio content is also commonly generated by machines to relay information, and this use will also continue on the Internet

Examples: In a hospital, the familar sound of the electrocardiograph (ECG) beeps in rhythm to the heart; a woman's pager alerts her on a street corner; the telegraph emits evenly-spaced clicks in Morse code. All these are examples of auditory displays, sounds made by a machine in order to relate information. In an age when language has become the predominant form of communication, sound plays an important role in our lives.

There are instances when language is too complicated to demonstrate relations among events, so a graph may be used. A company's logo immediately communicates the idea of an entire organization and it's products or services. Likewise, combonations of sounds, varying by timbre, pitch, or time, can show relations among events, as with the electrocardiograph. Particular timbres arrive in the mind with unavoidable associations, as with the whine of an ambulance siren.

In other instances, there is a high density of perceptual material that must be perceived, and various combinations must be used. For a project at NASA, an array of video and audio displays were needed to control the flight path of satellites. All necessary communication took place within a 10 minute window as each satellite passed overhead a ground station. With such a short time span, visual displays alone did not convey enough information and necessitated the collaborative use of audio signals.

Using Sound in the Human-Computer Interface

Audio on The Internet