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Auditory Displays

Auditory displays are most often used to attract and direct a user's attention. Typically, auditory displays convey caution, warning, or danger information. Auditory displays can be powerful "attention getters," depending on the characteristics of the sound used and the surrounding environment. Examples are fire alarms, burglar alarms, ambulance, and police sirens. For these applications, auditory displays are preferred because they need not be in the field of view to be used. Generally, sound should be accompanied with visual indicators such as flashing or strobing red lights for redundant sensory coding.

When designing auditory displays, loud (high decibel level) alarms should be reserved for life-threatening, critical events and lower levels used for less threatening alerts. Care must be taken in the selection of tones, decibel levels, and alarm/alert rates. While a powerful "attention getter," sound can also be a "task interrupter" and nuisance. For this reason, it should be sparingly used.

Smoke Detector This smoke detector uses an auditory display. Placed appropriately, it can warn inhabitants anywhere in a building or home of danger before the sight of fire or smell of smoke becomes apparent.


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