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Psychophysical Validation of Binaurally Processed Sound Superimposed upon Environmental Sound via an Unobstructed Pinna and an Open-Ear-Canal Earspeaker

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In most headphone-based spatial auditory display applications that use Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTFs), the presence of the headphone interferes with the listener’s natural spatial hearing abilities with regard to the “live” sound within their immediate environment. This paper describes an application of binaural technology in which a novel earspeaker reproduction system delivers sound at the ear canal entrance while exhibiting minimal acoustical interference with listener’s Anatomical Transfer Function (ATF). The system enables the creation of an effective auditory augmented reality for the listener in which virtual sound sources are displayed via HRTF-based processing, and the resulting binaural images are superimposed upon environmental sounds that are naturally transformed by the ATF of the listener. The system’s effectiveness was validated via two psychophysical tasks: In the first task, listeners made absolute judgements of the perceived direction of virtual sound sources delivered by the earspeakers, while in the second task listeners made judgements of the relative angular offset between stimuli presented for pairwise comparisons.

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