Expressive Musical Warning Signs
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Warning signals are often very simple and monotone sounds. This paper focuses on taking a more musical approach to the design of warnings and alarms than has been the case in the past. We present an experimental pilot study in which we explore the possibilities of using short musical pieces as warning signals in a vehicle cab. In the study, 18 experienced drivers experienced five different driving scenarios with different levels of urgency. Each scenario was presented together with an auditory icon, a traditional abstract warning sound, and a musical warning sound designed in collaboration with a composer. The test was carried out in an ``audio-only'' environment. Drivers were required to rate the perceived urgency, annoyance and appropriateness for every sound. They also had a chance to talk freely about the different warning signals. The results indicate interestingly that drivers may be able to understand the intended meaning of musical warning signals. It seems like the musical warning signals may prove useful primarily in situations of low and medium levels of urgency.