Aero-tactile speech perception enhancement

Project Leaders:

Post-Doctoral Fellow

  • Tom DeRybel

Funding Agency: Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (Science and Innovation Group)-Phase 2

  • $1,481,170NZD
  • October 2012 - July 2017

The ability to communicate successfully is vitally important. Often successful communication relies on devices such as hearing aids, emergency radios, smartphones and headphones.

This project aims to optimize the efficacy of such devices by researching the potential of airflow as a carrier of supplementary speech information. Recent scientific advances have revealed listeners don't just listen with their ears, they also listen with their skin. The puffs of air from speech landing on our skin can help us understand what we are hearing. This project will expand upon this research to examine the degree to which variable air-flow (as opposed to simple air-puffs) will also enhance speech perception. We will conduct a series of experiments aimed at helping us understand the full range of ways and circumstances in which air-flow can enhance speech perception. This includes researching the enhancement phenomenon in realistic listening scenarios, including in normal and noisy conditions, and with normal hearing and hard-of-hearing populations. The existing research shows that listeners incorporate air-puff information automatically and without any effort. Its use could therefore significantly aid communication, without distracting the listener from the message, or taking attention away from visual tasks. Improving audio clarity enhances user experiences, allows users to lower volume and so protect their hearing, and in the case of emergency radios, saves lives. This project will conduct the foundational research necessary to investigate the full potential of air-flow information for enhancing communication across different circumstances and in different listeners. The research will lay a firm foundation from which to concretely explore the integration of air-puff information into existing audio technologies.