Spearcons: speech-based earcons improve navigation performance in auditory menus
Walker, Bruce N.
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With shrinking displays and increasing technology use by visually impaired users, it is important to improve usability with non-GUI interfaces such as menus. Using non-speech sounds called earcons or auditory icons has been proposed to enhance menu navigation. We compared search time and accuracy of menu navigation using four types of auditory representations: speech only; hierarchical earcons; auditory icons; and a new type called spearcons. Spearcons are created by speeding up a spoken phrase until it is not recognized as speech. Using a within-subjects design, participants searched a 5 x 5 menu for target items using each type of audio cue. Spearcons and speech-only both led to faster and more accurate menu navigation than auditory icons and hierarchical earcons. There was a significant practice effect for search time, within each type of auditory cue. These results suggest that spearcons are more effective than previous auditory cues in menu-based interfaces, and may lead to better performance and accuracy, as well as more flexible menu structures.