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Listening to Maps

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There are multimedia maps that include sounds (see earlier posting on Sound Maps). Then there are maps that rely on sound to convey the data, meant for use by the visually impaired. The Human Computer Interaction Lab has a story about how geographic data is listened to.

“Earlier digital map exploration combined tactile feedback and sound to convey spatial information. While tactile feedback is potentially useful, it limits interfaces’ accessibility and portability because of dependence on special devices or hard-to-find tactile maps. The standard computer keyboard is widely used by blind users. Its arrow keys are natural means for relative movement in up/down/left/right directions; the numeric keypad supports movement in eight directions.And with remapping, the 3x3 numeric keypad can be a low-resolution 2-D pointing device; users can track grid recursion for three levels, providing resolution of 27x27 grid cells.”

It is difficult to compare a large set of numbers by simply listening to one after another; it is easier to do so by using music or pitch to represent the numbers. Said one user: “Tones help me do things I used to do with graphs.”

Definitely worth looking at or listening to are the examples posted on the Lab’s website. Instructions and links to various demos are listed near the bottom of the page. Clicking on a link will launch a Java applet.

By way of Connotea

1 Responses to “Listening to Maps”

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