A Comparison of Head-Tracked and Vehicle-Tracked Virtual Audio Cues in an Aircraft Navigation Taask

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Brungart, Douglas S
Simpson, Brian D
Dallman, Ronald C
Romigh, Griffin
Yasky, Richard
Raquet, John
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Since the earliest conception of virtual audio displays in the 1980's, two basic principles that have guided their development have been 1) that virtual audio cues are ideal for providing information to pilots in aviation applications; and 2) that head-tracked virtual audio displays provide more accurate and more intuitive directional information than non-tracked displays. However, despite the obvious potential utility of spatial audio cues in the cockpit, very little quantitative data has been collected to evaluate the in-flight performance of pilots using virtual audio displays. In this study, sixteen pilots maneuvered a general aviation aircraft through a series of ten waypoints using only direction cues provided a virtual audio display system. Each pilot repeated the task twice: once with a virtual display slaved to the direction of the pilot's head, and once with a virtual audio display slaved to the direction of the aircraft. Both configurations provided audio cues that were sufficient for successful aircraft navigation, with pilots on average piloting their aircraft to within 0.25 miles of the desired waypoints. However performance was significantly better in the plane-slaved condition, primarily due to a leftward bias in the head-slaved flight paths. This result suggests how important frame of reference considerations can be in the design of virtual audio displays for vehicle navigation.
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