Communicative Functions of Sounds which we call Alarms
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The design of alarm or warning sounds appears to be far from a trivial challenge. Even if the basic principles of creating an alarming quality for a sound have been widely accepted and applied, there seems to be a constant need for knowledge about what a ”good” alarm should sound like. In this paper, we analyse the challenge of alarm sound design. The analysis is carried out in terms of an application context, which is an anaesthesia workstation in an operating room. We conclude that to result in satisfactory sounds, the design should not only concentrate on stereotypic qualities of expected alarms, like a strong psycho-physiological reaction but should also take more aspects into an account. It is proposed that these context dependent aspects, in turn, are extracted from the communicative functions of the sound’s intended usage. For such a conceptual design of alarm sounds, a basic taxonomy of communicative functions in terms of alarm priority levels is proposed. Even though this report concentrates on one application area, the approach would be applicable in several areas. Sound design for other safety critical applications, in particular, would benefit from our findings.