Eyes-free multitasking: the effect of cognitive load on mobile spatial audio interfaces

Vazquez-Alvarez, Y. and Brewster, S.A. (2011) Eyes-free multitasking: the effect of cognitive load on mobile spatial audio interfaces. In: CHI 2011: Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM: New York, NY, pp. 2173-2176. ISBN 9781450302289 (doi:10.1145/1978942.1979258)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1978942.1979258


As mobile devices increase in functionality, users perform more tasks when on the move. Spatial audio interfaces offer a solution for eyes-free interaction. However, such interfaces face a number of challenges when supporting multiple and simultaneous tasks, namely: 1) interference amongst multiple audio streams, and 2) the constraints of cognitive load. We present a comparative study of spatial audio techniques evaluated in a divided- and selective-attention task. A podcast was used for high cognitive load (divided-attention) and classical music for low cognitive load (selective-attention), while interacting with an audio menu. Results showed that spatial audio techniques were preferred when cognitive load was kept low, while a baseline technique using an interruptible single audio stream was significantly less preferred. Conversely, when cognitive load was increased the preferences reversed. Thus, given an appropriate task structure, spatial techniques offer a means of designing effective audio interfaces to support eyes-free mobile multitasking.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Vazquez-Alvarez, Dr Yolanda and Brewster, Professor Stephen
Authors: Vazquez-Alvarez, Y., and Brewster, S.A.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
457653GAIME-gestural and audio interactions for mobile environmentsStephen BrewsterEngineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/F023405/1Computing Science