Human-Computer Interaction

This branch of research investigates user experience and performance in virtual environments. Our previous research focused on user experience in spatial auditory displays (Guastavino & Katz, 2004; Guastavino, Katz, Polack, Levitin & Dubois, 2005). This line of research was then extended to the perceptual evaluation of videoconferencing technologies and information visualization (Julien et al., 2010). On-going collaborations with researchers from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Music Media Technology concern various aspects of human-computer interaction. Our role is to investigate the perceptual effects of video and audio compression and validate computer models of sound synthesis in controlled laboratory experiments (Guastavino & Verfaille, 2007; Murphy et al., 2008; Verfaille, Guastavino & Depalle, 2005; 2007; 2008). Our convergent findings uncovered the dependence of subjective evaluations upon the source material presented, the task at hand and the expertise of the audience. These findings highlight the need to integrate individual subjective factors and situational factors when designing new information technologies.

On-going projects focus on the design and evaluation of auditory cues for human-computer interaction (Bouchara et al., 2010; Absar & Guastavino, 2011). Enhancing navigation through multimodal cues addresses two major navigation issues reported in the field of visual interface design, namely disorientation, defined as the tendency to lose the sense of location and direction and cognitive overload, defined as the additional effort and concentration necessary to make multiple navigation decisions. The use of auditory feedback has been advocated in several contexts where: visual focus is elsewhere or obstructed; limited display is available (hand-held devices); mobility is essential; attention needs to be drawn to critical events in complex visual displays; or for visually impaired users (see Absar & Guastavino, 2008 for a review). Evaluation tasks include simple target finding tasks and more complex information retrieval tasks. User performance, satisfaction and perceived ease of use are evaluated using both quantitative and qualitative measures. These include completion times, accuracy, error rates, learning effects as well as preference ratings, satisfaction, affective reactions and verbal descriptions. The results inform us on what type of information is best conveyed using sound and what type of environment, task, and users benefits more from audio-enhanced interfaces.

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