Katherine Vasser    


Portfolio: Alarm Design (2008 – 2009)  
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Faculty Advisor: S. Camille Peres, PhD    


To extend previous studies about alarm design for the NASA Crew Exploration vehicle (CEV) to investigate the use of sonification, or the use of continuous sound to represent data.


Created a data set of temperatures (representing hypothetical engine temperature), and corresponding sound files that used alarms, sonification, or a combination of the two. In the alarm condition, three different sounds were emitted if the temperature reached above 150° F, 175° F, and 200° F, representing caution, warning, and emergency level situations, respectively. In the sonification condition, users were expected to know when one of the severity situations occurred by identifying the correct pitch level. The combination condition allowed users to hear continual temperature data, but severity levels were also marked by alarms. Participants were asked to complete a set of algebra questions while listening to their audio file, writing down the times that they believed that a severity situation had occurred.


The primary finding is that the participants in the alarm group had a significantly lower number of false positive identifications than those either in the sonification or alarm and sonification groups. There was no difference in the alarm design with regards to the participants’ ability to correctly identify the situations, possibly because they had a difficult time remembering the pitch associated with each level. There was also no difference in performance on the algebra task. Came to the conclusion that future work is needed in optimal design of displays using sonification and which types of monitoring situations

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