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Auditory Horizon


Sean Patten
phone: 406-994-7721

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Auditory Horizon

Modern Traffic Advisory Systems (TAS) can increase flight safety by providing pilots with real-time information about the locations of nearby aircraft. However, most current collision avoidance systems rely on non-intuitive visual and audio displays that may not allow pilots to take full advantage of this information. In this experiment, we compared the response times required for subjects participating in a fully-immersive simulated flight task to visually acquire and identify nearby targets under four different simulated TAS display conditions: 1) no display; 2) a visual display combined with a nonspatialized warning sound; 3) a visual display combined with a clock-coordinate speech signal; and 4) a visual display combined with a spatialized auditory warning sound. The results show that response times varied in an orderly fashion as a function of display condition, with the slowest times occurring in the no display condition and the fastest times occurring in the 3D audio display condition, where they were roughly 25% faster than those without the 3D audio cues.

The Auditory Horizon is a patent pending method developed by the Air Force Research Lab 711th Human Performance Wing, Human Effectiveness Directorate (711 HPW/RH). This lab has a long and successful history of advanced research in auditory displays that help military pilots maintain situational awareness and spatial orientation under extremely difficult conditions. This technology processes data from Global Positioning Systems and flight indicators then provides audio feedback to the pilot through the existing entertainment and communication systems. The Auditory Horizon technology provides a three dimensional auditory artificial horizon that the pilot can use to orient the aircraft. The audio display is continuously available, but is easily relegated to the pilot's mental background when it is not needed. The Auditory Horizon has been tested by pilots at the NASA Langley Research Center.

Key Advantages
Increased situational awareness for general aviation pilots
Increases flight safety by helping pilots avoid conditions that result in spatial disorientation
Easily integrated into existing aircraft avionics equipment
Proven effective in real flight tests
Provides a clear advancement and "wow" factor that will increase avionics instrumentation sales

Opportunity & Development Status
The Auditory Horizon has been prototyped and tested. This technology is patent pending and is available for licensing from the US Air Force. A demonstration can be arranged. Collaborative R&D with the Air Force is a possibility.