The use of ambient audio to increase safety and immersion in location-based games

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Kurczak, John, Jason
location-based games , ambient interfaces
The purpose of this thesis is to propose an alternative type of interface for mobile software being used while walking or running. Our work addresses the problem of visual user interfaces for mobile software be- ing potentially unsafe for pedestrians, and not being very immersive when used for location-based games. In addition, location-based games and applications can be dif- ficult to develop when directly interfacing with the sensors used to track the user’s location. These problems need to be addressed because portable computing devices are be- coming a popular tool for navigation, playing games, and accessing the internet while walking. This poses a safety problem for mobile users, who may be paying too much attention to their device to notice and react to hazards in their environment. The difficulty of developing location-based games and other location-aware applications may significantly hinder the prevalence of applications that explore new interaction techniques for ubiquitous computing. We created the TREC toolkit to address the issues with tracking sensors while developing location-based games and applications. We have developed functional location-based applications with TREC to demonstrate the amount of work that can be saved by using this toolkit.In order to have a safer and more immersive alternative to visual interfaces, we have developed ambient audio interfaces for use with mobile applications. Ambient audio uses continuous streams of sound over headphones to present information to mobile users without distracting them from walking safely. In order to test the effectiveness of ambient audio, we ran a study to compare ambient audio with handheld visual interfaces in a location-based game. We compared players’ ability to safely navigate the environment, their sense of immersion in the game, and their performance at the in-game tasks. We found that ambient audio was able to significantly increase players’ safety and sense of immersion compared to a visual interface, while players performed signifi- cantly better at the game tasks when using the visual interface. This makes ambient audio a legitimate alternative to visual interfaces for mobile users when safety and immersion are a priority.
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