In our increasingly technical world, we rely more and more on software systems in both our professional and private lives. Employees in industrial production facilities operate with complex machine systems, the automobile industry engages in improving autonomous driving systems, and computer scientists develop Virtual and Augmented Reality solutions that will support us to refurbish our homes or to arrange team meetings independent from where our team partners are located.
When designing technical solutions for those scenarios, developers are aware that the attentional capacity of their users is limited. Thus, it is an open question on how our limited attention can be cued and redirected by warning systems. For example, how should we design a warning for when an autonomously driven car is confronted with the sudden appearance of an obstacle.
Lewis Chuang, a cognitive neuroscientist, and his research group investigates how humans seek out and process to multiple streams of information. His research might help software engineers to develop intelligent systems that could manage the attention of their users appropriately.
In a recent study, Lewis Chuang and Christiane Glatz tested different warning sounds at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen. The scientists found out that certain sounds redirected our attention away from an ongoing task better than others. Specifically, looming sounds, which are suggestive of approaching objects, redirected human attention away from an ongoing task as long as they were presented. In contrast, alarms with unchanging intensities steadily lost their attraction with time.
The insights of these SFB-TRR 161 scientists, are reported in the article The time course of auditory looming cues in redirecting visuo-spatial attention in Scientific Reports.
Christiane Glatz and Lewis L. Chuang, The time course of auditory looming cues in redirecting visuo-spatial attention, Scientific Reports, 2019.