Chapter 13: Auditory Icons

by Eoin Brazil and Mikael Fernström

Description

This chapter introduces Auditory Icons, these are the auditory equivalent of visual icons used in the desktop user interface metaphor. The rationale behind their creation is outlined. The emphasis is given to highlighting applications using these auditory icons, demonstrating how they work and what they can be used for. A number of approaches to designing these icons are outlined and discussed.

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Download the chapter: TheSonificationHandbook-chapter13 (PDF, 1.2M)

Media Examples

Example S13.1: Water splashing
Auditory icons use an intuitive linkage between the model world of sonically represented objects and events, using sounds familiar to listeners from the everyday world. This example is that of water splashing across a tiled floor.


media file S13.1
download: SHB-S13.1 (mp3, 67k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.2: A flowing river
Another example highlighting the sound of a flowing river.
Water flowing in River Shannon


media file S13.2
download: SHB-S13.2 (mp3, 273k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.3: Filling a bottle with water (real)
Another example highlighting the sound of a plastic bottle being filled.


media file S13.3
download: SHB-S13.3 (mp3, 324k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.4: Filling a bottle with water (synthesized version one)
This is a synthetic sound using a Sound Object Model allowing for the parametric control of the sound.


media file S13.4
download: SHB-S13.4 (mp3, 334k)
source: The Sound Object Project, rendered sound.

Example S13.5: Filling a bottle with water (synthesized version two)
This is a synthetic sound using a Sound Object Model allowing for the parametric control of the sound.


media file S13.5
download: SHB-S13.5 (mp3, 69k)
source: The Sound Object Project, rendered sound.

Example S13.6: Filling a handwash basing with water
An example of water filling a handwash basin.


media file S13.6
download: SHB-S13.6 (mp3, 305k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.7: A tap dripping
An example of water dripping from a tap.


media file S13.7
download: SHB-S13.7 (mp3, 455k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.8: Boiling water
An example of water boiling.


media file S13.8
download: SHB-S13.8 (mp3, 139k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.9: Walking / footsteps on tarmac
An example of walking on tarmac.


media file S13.9
download: SHB-S13.9 (mp3, 181k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.10: Walking / footsteps on gravel
An example of walking on gravel.


media file S13.10
download: SHB-S13.10 (mp3, 208k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.11: Walking / footsteps coming down a set of stairs
An example of walking down stairs.


media file S13.11
download: SHB-S13.11 (mp3, 214k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.12: The Vodhran, a synthesised version of a Bodhran
An example of a Sound Object Model based upon the Bodhran, a traditional Irish Musical instrument and represented as a synthetic sound model, the Vodhran.


media file S13.12
download: SHB-S13.12 (mp3, 352k)
source: The Sound Object Project, rendered sound.

Example S13.13: Hammering a nail into a piece of wood
The sound of hammering a nail into wood.


media file S13.13
download: SHB-S13.13 (mp3, 243k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.14: Sawing a piece of wood
The sound of sawing a plank of wood.


media file S13.14
download: SHB-S13.14 (mp3, 66k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.15: The Shoogle mobile device
Shoogle, a mobile device that used auditory icons and the metaphor of shaking containers or objects to determine if they were full or empty and to get an approximation for the amount in the container.


media file S13.15
download: SHB-S13.15 (mp3, 627k)
source: Rod Murray-Smith and John Williamson, rendered sound.

Example S13.16: A rubber ball bouncing on a wooden floor
The sound of one rubber ball being dropped on a wooden floor.


media file S13.16
download: SHB-S13.16 (mp3, 64k)
source: The Sound Object Project, recorded sound.

Example S13.17: Two rubber balls bouncing on a wooden floor
The sound of two rubber balls being dropped on a wooden floor.


media file S13.17
download: SHB-S13.17 (mp3, 81k)
source: The Sound Object Project, recorded sound.

Example S13.18: Breaking three glasses
The sound of three glasses being broken in succession.


media file S13.18
download: SHB-S13.18 (mp3, 65k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.19: A car engine starting and idling
The sound of a car engine starting and the car idling as it is parked.


media file S13.19
download: SHB-S13.19 (mp3, 173k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.20: Closing a drawer
The sound of a drawer being closed in a wooden piece of furniture.


media file S13.20
download: SHB-S13.20 (mp3, 27k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.21: Closing a door
The sound of a door being closed.


media file S13.21
download: SHB-S13.21 (mp3, 25k)
source: Mikael Fernström, recorded sound.

Example S13.22: Virtual audio only buttons for a mobile interface
An auditory icons design using these sounds to represent virtual buttons in a user interface.


media file S13.22
download: SHB-S13.22 (mp3, 232k)
source: Mikael Fernström, rendered sound.

Example S13.23: Monitoring patients using auditory icons, Sonifying the Body Electric
An example from the research of Fitch & Kramer ICAD’92 and their paper, Sonifying the Body Electric. It represented eight continuously changing variables with each mapped to a different vital sign of the patient.


media file S13.23
download: SHB-S13.23 (mp3, 4.8M)
source: Gregory Kramer, rendered sound.

Example S13.24: Robot personalities using only audio, R2D2
An example highlighting creative sound design practices for the design of a sound of something that does not exist in the real world. An example of this can be seen in the classic movie from 1977, Star Wars where Ben Burtt used a blend of electronically generated sounds and natural sounds to create the droid / robot character R2D2.


media file S13.24

download: SHB-S13.24 (mp3, 138k)
source: Eoin Brazil, rendered sound.

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