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Perception and psychology

Advances in technology (Bluetooth headsets, ‘iPods’, quieter cars, helmets) are leading to situations where an individual's perception of the surrounding environment is hindered, making him/her more vulnerable to accidents and/or intentional dangers. Examples include: a driver unaware of a fast moving emergency vehicle; a motorbike or cyclist wearing a protection helmet; a civil protection foraging robot or vehicle on patrol. This PhD research project aims to study and develop detection and warning systems for users or equipment, allowing constant sound monitoring of the environment and identification of potential threats. The project straddles across a set of multi-disciplinary skills such as sensor engineering (with particular emphasis on acoustic detection), digital signal processing and cognitive behaviour. The research and development of advanced acoustic sensor networks and associated signal acquisition and analysis would form the core of the doctorate. Collaboration with psychology and social sciences partners will be provided to support the areas of cognition and human behaviour.


Finger nails scrapping down a blackboard, the scream of a baby, your neighbour’s dog barking, someone throwing up: what is the worst sound in the world? In 2005/6 I ran a large scale web experiment to examine the worst sound in the world which attracted millions of votes. While the website has produced interesting results on people’s responses to the sounds, it is still unclear how valid the results are? In this phd research project, you will carry out perceptual measurements in the laboratory to compare to web experiment results, to determine the limitations of testing subjective responses over the Internet. Can the vast number of respondents available via the Internet compensate for the very uncontrolled experimental conditions?


Understanding and utilising to best effect multiple sensory cues within virtual reality environments has been a focus of much ongoing research. Of particular interest to the us is the assessment of mediated aural cues within a wider multi-sensoral context. Such work is being facilitated by Salford University’s two in-house developed 256 wavefield synthesis systems and their associated API. The faithful rendering of virtual acoustic environments is comprised by the limitations of acoustic and visual mediating systems and their host environment. However, there is much scope for investigating and hence optimising pathological cue rejection and desired cue consolidation.

Contact Ian Drumm

The amplitude modulated sound character of wind turbines is frequently mentioned in the context of annoyance and health effects with significant economic impact. While there are still questions about the source mechanisms and characterisation of amplitude modulation one of the most under-researched areas is the response of listeners to this type of sound. Preliminary listening tests have been conducted by the University of Salford but more work needs to be done to understand most suitable metrics and the effects of random occurrence and long term exposure.

Contact Sabine von H√ľnerbein