On the human ability to discriminate audio ambiances from similar locations of an urban environment

Korpi, Dani; Heittola, Toni; Partala, Timo; Eronen, Antti; Mesaros, Annamaria; Virtanen, Tuomas

When developing advanced location-based systems augmented with audio ambiances, it would be cost-effective to use a few representative samples from typical environments for describing a larger number of similar locations. The aim of this experiment was to study the human ability to discriminate audio ambiances recorded in similar locations of the same urban environment. A listening experiment consisting of material from three different environments and nine different locations was carried out with nineteen subjects to study the credibility of audio representations for certain environments which would diminish the need for collecting huge audio databases. The first goal was to study to what degree humans are able to recognize whether the recording has been made in an indicated location or in another similar location, when presented with the name of the place, location on a map, and the associated audio ambiance. The second goal was to study whether the ability to discriminate audio ambiances from different locations is affected by a visual cue, by presenting additional information in form of a photograph of the suggested location. The results indicate that audio ambiances from similar urban areas of the same city differ enough so that it is not acceptable to use a single recording as ambience to represent different yet similar locations. Including an image was found to increase the perceived credibility of all the audio samples in representing a certain location. The results suggest that developers of audio-augmented location-based systems should aim at using audio samples recorded on-site for each location in order to achieve a credible impression.

Personal and Ubiquitous Computing
November 2012