The 'GUIB' spatial auditory display - generation of an audio-based interface for blind computer users
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In order to provide access to graphical-based user interfaces (GUI's) for blind computer users, a screen-reader program system is under development which conveys the GUI into auditive and/or tactile form. The spatial auditory display of the screen-reader program is based on a cost-effective binaural audio processing system, using head-related transfer function (HRTF) synthesis technology. Non-individual HRTFs are used to synthesise virtual spatial acoustic locations. Synthesised speech and non-verbal audio signals, referred to as 'auditory icons' and 'earcons', are used to represent graphical information contents of the GUI display. Both, speech and non-speech audio components are positioned in virtual 3D acoustic space, in order to aid orientation and navigation for non-visual users. For the presentation of continuous text, such as word-processor or spreadsheet applications-based documents, a software mechanism was developed which synchronizes text-to-speech synthesiser devices to the spatial processing system. This mechanism also provides procedures to combine non-verbal audio cues with the synthesised speech output. The spatial presentation of the auditory display thus can convey information about the spatial layout of the user interface and text-based applications through direct perception of acoustic locations.Additionally, spatial audio presentation assists the use of pointing devices (e.g., tactile displays,mouse) and enables the use of multiple, simultaneously presented auditory information.