Computer audio capabilities have already reached HiFi quality, but there are still not "serious" applications using sound output for communication with users. On the other hand, there is a lot of games and educational programs that produce speech, sound effects and 3D sound. Why is that? Why is sound output neglected in applications that are aimed for supporting peoples work?
Hearing can be regarded as an additional information channel, largely independent from vision. People use to solve problems in teams, so a kind of communication within a team is needed. Vision is often obstruct by watching computer screen. Hearing is then the only channel that is free for communication. On the other hand, computer games attract as much attention as possible using all human senses to entertain the user.
There are some exceptions from the general rule, that I proposed above. People that use their vision for other purposes than watching computer monitor may prefer to hear to information output by computer.
Visually impaired people use sound and tactile output as the only means for communication with computer. Operation systems based on graphical user interface virtually prevent visually impaired users from using computers.
In 1996 we worked on a project aimed at user interfaces for visually impaired people, part of which was a program for learning of navigation in an unknown environment. In fact this is a kind of virtual reality application. This year we would like to add 3D sound output to the application in order to improve its user interface. In the next chapters I would like to present you with an overview of techniques for 3D sound output.