ABACus: Accessible Broadcast Audio Customisation

What is ABACus (in under three minutes)?

This talk was given as part of the University of Salford’s 3 Minute Thesis Competition (SPARC 2017)

Project Description

Object-based broadcasting presents a big leap forward in broadcast technology, giving the end-user the ability to customise their broadcast experience. One way in which this experience can be customised is through the ability to adjust the volume of different broadcast elements, like dialogue, sound effects or music, in their own home. For hard of hearing listeners, this ability to alter the sound levels based on personal hearing requirements has the potential to significantly improve the clarity and accessibility of broadcast audio. However, to ensure end-users receive full benefit from this technology development of effective and easy to use tools, based on an understanding of user needs, is essential. This project is working to develop such tools. 

The project has a particular focus on investigating how sounds relevant to the narrative of the broadcast content, like foreground sound effects, affect how easily dialogue is understood. The project has shown that relevant sound effects can almost double normal hearing listeners’ ability to understand dialogue, when there is competing noise. This is not the case for all hard of hearing listeners. It been shown that how much the sound effect aids, or masks, speech understanding can be predicted by the listener’s hearing levels in their better ear (for dialogue, sound effects and noise from a single loudspeaker).

More information about the project, results and how to get involved can be found below.

Related Project

Object-based Clean Audio