Effects of gamification and active listening on short-term sound localization training in virtual reality
Abstract. Headphone-based virtual audio systems typically use non-individualized head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) to create the illusion of spatialized sound. Listeners are therefore provided with unfamiliar spatial cues leading to poor sound localization. In this study, a smartphone-based system was developed to investigate the effects of short-term training on virtual sound localization accuracy. Participants underwent multiple training sessions in which visual positional feedback was provided in a virtual environment, interleaved with localization accuracy evaluation sessions. Different versions of the training software were developed to investigate the effects of introducing game-design elements ("gamification") and relative sound source motion using head tracking ("active listening") on improvements in localization accuracy. The results demonstrate that adaptation to a non-individualized HRTF can be facilitated using a small number of short (12 minute) training sessions, and is retained across multiple days. This adaptation is not HRTF-specific, as the learning effect generalizes to a second HRTF not used in the training, regardless of the training paradigm used. The introduction of game-design elements and the use of active listening had no significant effect on the efficacy of localization training.