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Auditory Chat Room

Auditorily navigable chat room for people who are blind.
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This chat room would be auditorily navigable in 3D virtual space, so that people who are blind could use only their hearing to create and navigate conversation groups by interest. Sort of like a auditory Second Life or ActiveWorlds -- features like Ignore would become very important. There would have to be some kind of standard so that overall volume could be changed but relative volume of people who are not being Ignored is constant.
JesusHChrist, Apr 04 2006

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       Phone line chat rooms have been around for years, although I couldn't tell you how successful they are, nor whether they are frequented by the deaf.
DrCurry, Apr 04 2006
  

       I think this would be a really interesting problem to solve, with many detail solutions that come out of playing around with the mix.   

       People could make footsteps as they move between groups. There could be a mapping between the main speaker and a location (like climbing the soapbox). People in direct conversation move closer together. Private groups could have no echo.
jutta, Apr 04 2006
  

       I see it (ha!) as a virtual representation of a cocktail party. Users would navigate the floor effectively moving between, but not engaging in, groups of users having a conversation. The closer you are to a particular group the more predominant their conversation would be against the background noise.
A very useful feature would be to stop background noise once the user has joined a particular group.

So long as the group size is not huge, the resulting chat should be much like a multi-party conference call.

Indexing and moderation would be particularly difficult.
methinksnot, Apr 04 2006
  

       Just rambling aimlessly...   

       This would be quite a challenge as interfaces go (AUI?). Not anything I've ever delved into.   

       Surround sound strikes me as being of value for this. With proper phase shifting, etc., I imagine you could fill 3D "space" with "point source" conversations to which one could gravitate when something catches their attention. As you move closer, the individual voices could separate in space according to how close you are. How would you determine which person occupied which location relative to the listener? That would have to be dynamic based on who has moved closer to whom.   

       Possibly a head mounted navigation unit that responds to the turning and tilting of the head to move toward or away from conversations. Combine with mouse movements to zoom in on conversations and navigate in a single plane or into what would, in the physical world be "above" or "below" one's present level.   

       Some sort of alternate audio channel could provide standardized message of conversation topic, conversation members and such background type information.   

       I've always found it impressive how we can pick out a specific voice, instrument, sound, noise, etc. among many in a choir, orchestra, crowd, automobile engine, etc. and "tune in" on that source.
half, Apr 04 2006
  

       Makes me wonder if a blind person can tell the difference between Aureal 3D sound technology and the real thing.
RayfordSteele, Apr 05 2006
  

       Interesting ramblings [half]. I don't think you would need to locate every user; the "point source" sound of a group would be a mix of all the users chatting. Once you are in the group, basic stereo will suffice; some users will be to your left and some to your right. I have not seen many traditional chat rooms where spatial references are used (a handle is used for identification, here your handle will be your voice -real or feigned- which is a great idea in itself as you could discuss really interesting stuff with Porky Pig).   

       Navigation? Mouse-based like many first person shooter games and a click to join a group once you have reached the source. There is no need for artificial directionality since there is no visual front-of-the-head constraint to movement.   

       Why the negative votes, I wonder?
methinksnot, Apr 05 2006
  

       I see.
I just find the concept of enhancing the communication options for the visually impaired pretty appealing. I would use sound/noise control options similar to this, just so the conversation is intelligible, even if they are not available in real-world scenarios.
methinksnot, Apr 05 2006
  

       [mtsnot]: the reasoning behind my some of my ramblings --- In my natural functioning, I can hear and identify the location of things behind me. Naturally, I turn toward the sound to better tune in and move toward the conversation. Unless you turn the virtual head that is observing the sounds, you'll effectively be moving backward toward the sound with the mouse navigation. That's a bit of an unnatural action (at least at the drug free venues that I prefer). If you do turn the virtual head toward the sound, now your brain is telling you that you're moving forward as you "zoom" toward the sound while the mouse may be moving in a direction that more naturally corresponds to backward.   

       I believe we're pretty well in synch on the point source thing. That would represent a conversation from a distance. As I approach the group, naturally the voices diverge, as resolution increases. I can identify the location of the speakers and the conversation begins to fill more of my peripheral hearing (Is that a real term? I'm just making this stuff up).   

       I think the surround sound would feel more natural as I might very well hear a conversation behind me and it would be easier to discriminate various conversations if they seemed to be coming from 360 degrees around me. I think stereo can simulate that to a degree.   

       I don't understand the conclusion that there is no "front of the head" as it relates to hearing. I may be misunderstanding your point.   

       Having made much ado about a "natural" interface, I now turn around and say that I'd like to have the conversations come from 3 dimensions instead of 2 just because it would be cool...like a zero G cocktail party.   

       Again, I have no knowledge of this stuff other than my ordinary hearing experiences...just more brain roving. I would prefer to read the musings of the halfbakers who actually know about psychoacoustics and stuff.   

       My, how I do ramble on. Sorry about that.
half, Apr 05 2006
  

       [half], the front-of-the-head thing relates to your point a couple of paragraphs above: You feel like walking backwards just because in your natural perception you use your eyes to guide you. Since in this chat room you would be using your ears, the concept of front/back is not really necessary.   

       [bigsleep], not naiive, just simplifying sensory perception for the benefit of expedient long-distance communication. I do not need to know where people are sitting or whether there are glassess on the table to participate in a chat room.
But please don't take me seriously, I know nothing about these things and am just participating hoping to learn something.
methinksnot, Apr 05 2006
  

       This isn't just for blind people, etc. This is ideal for an ambient computing direction, whereby an immersive interactive environment can take place and be engaged in, using alternative displays and display media. (Ironically, I'm reading a lot about the latter sort of thing for uni, right now.)   

       The upshot of this sort of scheme would be that one can participate in a workgroup / social group communication, whilst also doing actual work that actually does involve the actual use of the eye-hand-computer loop. Alternatively, it enables participation into a group computing environment by people out in the field where desks or portable hand-held visual displays are difficult to use. Eg, the engagement in the audio realm might include someone halfway up scaffolding on a building site to participate in a meeting (whether this is desirable is a separate problem).   

       In the first instance, we're seeing McLuhan's 'cool media' concept at work, in that you're able to build more of the world in your head, rather than have it all transmitted down the wire. In terms of attention and participation, it also enables attention division in the same way we can listen to the radio and work, to a certain extent (but conversely, rarely do the same with the telly on).
Ian Tindale, Apr 05 2006
  

       [bigsleep], are you implying that one must be blind to understand how aural perception works? Obviously, if one is to build an interface to aid the sight-impaired, one would get significant input from the target audience. Maybe it's only me that assumes that.   

       [mtsnot]: "You feel like walking backwards just because in your natural perception you use your eyes to guide you." I believe that you are incorrect on this point. Humans quite clearly have the ability to tell whether a sound is coming from behind them. If the sound is coming from behind me, and the phase/frequency shifting and volume change tell me that the sound is getting closer, then I must be moving backward toward it or the source of the sound is moving toward me from behind.   

       My understanding is that the shape, placement and acoustic properties of our ears give us the ability to make the front/back determination of a sound's location. On that basis, I'd assert that there is an inherent "front" and therefore "forward" when it comes to hearing.   

       Well, I guess we'll know for sure once the device is built and tested. :-)
half, Apr 05 2006
  

       [half]. You are correct, of course. I can tell where a sound is coming from and certainly can differentiate whether it is back or front, what I meant by unnecessary artificial directionality is that it really does not matter whether you are moving back or front, just that you are getting closer to the source (you would still need to know where the sound is coming from if you want to be able to get to it). I think that we (I alone?) carry a lot of preconceptions based on the way we experience the world (two eyes, two ears, etc) and the way the human body is built and that in this virtual chat room we really would not neet to navigate facing 'front' all the time just so our mind makes the connection with the real world a bit easier. But it's all good, it doesn't really matter because navigation would be done whichever way the individual user feels more comfortable.   

       How high do you guys think the bullshit-o-meter is registering?
methinksnot, Apr 05 2006
  

       I see your point, but I don't believe I said you'd "need" to navigate facing front. I said it was the natural thing to do. It's therefore the first approach I would try in creating an intuitive interface.   

       I assume that in that last comment you're referring to my postings. I quite clearly indicated that everything I said was my opinion based on limited knowledge of the subject matter. Seemed harmless enough to have a discussion.   

       [half] off.
half, Apr 05 2006
  

       //I assume that in that last comment you're referring to my postings// [half].   

       Not at all [half]. Just referring to the longer-than-average annotations in this idea. Please accept my apologies if I caused any offence; certainly none was intended.
methinksnot, Apr 05 2006
  
      
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