Many people utilize audio equipment to escape from noises around them, leading to the desired isolation but also dangerously reduced awareness. Mediation of sounds through smarter headphones (e.g., hearables) could address this by providing non-uniform interaction with sounds while retaining a comfortable, yet informative soundscape. In a week-long event sampling study (n = 12), we found that users mostly desire muting or a distinct “quiet-but-audible” volume for sound sources. A follow-up study (n = 12) compared a reduced interaction granularity with a continuous one in VR. Usability and workload did not differ significantly for the two granularities but a set of four states can be considered sufficient for most scenarios, namely: ‘‘muted’’, ‘‘quieter’’, ‘‘louder’’ and ‘‘unchanged’’, allowing for smoother interaction flows. We provide implications for the design of interactive auditory mediated reality systems enabling users to be safe, comfortable and less isolated from their surroundings, while re-gaining agency over their sense of hearing.

The poster based on this work was initially presented at ACM UIST 2018: 10.1145/3266037.3266104

The final version, presented at ACM DIS 2020 is available in the ACM Digital Library: 10.1145/3357236.3395493

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