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Virtual reality games to assess and habilitate auditory spatial awareness

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R41DC016578-01
Agency Tracking Number: R41DC016578
Amount: $224,924.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIDCD
Solicitation Number: PA16-303
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2017
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2017-07-15
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2018-09-30
Small Business Information
Highland, MD 20777-9797
United States
DUNS: 962585456
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (301) 405-1000
Business Contact
Phone: (303) 332-2507
Research Institution
1161 21ST AVE S, STE D3300 MCN
NASHVILLE, TN 37232-0011
United States

 Domestic Nonprofit Research Organization

Project Summary Virtual reality games to assess and habilitate auditory spatial awareness
Auditory spatial awareness ASA is the critically important skill of using sound to understand extrapersonal
space and its content Both explicit sound localization and implicit environmental awareness aspects of ASA
contribute to everyday listening effort fatigue and spatial attention Because hearing alone provides spatial
information in all directions ASA is critical for awareness outside the visual field and for the experience of sensory
immersion in both natural and virtual scenes Self report studies suggest that hearing impairment aging and
device use can negatively impact ASA but the current lack of tools for objective psychophysical assessment in
realistic spatial scenes remains a significant barrier to progress in this area
This Phase I STTR proposal tests the feasibility of using virtual reality VR technology to quantify ASA in
simulated but perceptually immersive auditory scenes Software for D audio rendering over earphones and over
loudspeaker arrays will be modified to work with established psychophysical paradigms in order to assess
listeners sensitivity to room acoustics and to changes in dynamic auditory scenes Psychophysical measures
will be presented in the context of a simple VR game using a high frame rate head mounted display that tracks
head movements in real time Behavioral testing will involve both earphone and free field presentation Earphone
testing will present spatial sound in rendered D space using VisiSonics RealSpace D software A commercial
advantage of the earphone based approach is its low cost of implementation in standard research and clinical
facilities In contrast free field testing will use a high resolution loudspeaker array to provide naturally accurate
spatial cues for each listener This approach will eventually facilitate testing with hearing aids and cochlear
implants that may not be compatible with earphone presentation
If successful the technology developed via this proposal will ultimately provide quantitative psychophysical
measures e g thresholds of ASA for comparison across diverse pediatric and adult patient populations across
signal processing algorithms for hearing aids cochlear implants and D audio technology and across time
points in longitudinal studies of ASA habilitation in neurological and audiological patients Work in Phase II will
develop a commercial prototype suitable to such applications and assess performance across diverse
populations of listeners Commercial impact is anticipated in clinical settings in the design and evaluation of
clinical devices and in perception research for basic science entertainment and gaming itself Auditory spatial awareness ASA is the ability to use sound to understand the space around a listener and is a
vital component of situational awareness Because ASA involves the perception of natural scenes that are
difficult to study in laboratory experiments its characteristics development and pathologies remain poorly
understood This Phase I proposal develops virtual reality technology that will allow objective measurement of
ASA in simulated but realistic auditory scenes

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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