ORI ACSL

Applied Computer Simulation Labs

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Sonic Trainer Software Guide

Version 2


Sonic Trainer is Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training software for the blind designed to help students learn to identify, localize, and track 3-D sound sources around them. The Sonic Trainer software automatically collects student performance data, and provides skill building and 3-D listening evaluation capabilities.

Introduction to Sonic Trainer:

Welcome to the ORI Applied Computer Simulation Labs' Sonic Trainer software. Sonic Trainer is an advanced simulation program designed to help Orientation and Mobility Training Specialists teach blind and vision impaired students how to identify, localize, and track sounds. Sonic Trainer is comprised of two software modes: SonicSkills and SonicEvaluation. The SonicSkills mode of the software provides "skill-building" program that allows a trainer to activate, move, and position sounds around the student. The SonicEvaluation mode of the software is an assessment and evaluation program, designed to work with SonicSkills, to measure a student's ability to identify, localize, and track various sound sources presented in the Sonic Trainer simulation environment.

The Sonic Trainer software takes advantage of the computer's ability to create a 3-D audio spatial illusion. By using a special 3-D sound card and software, the computer can present sound sources that appear to be moving, or emanating from various positions around the listener's head. This allows the listener to hear sounds much like they sound in a real space, so a sound can appear to come from above, behind, or in any spherical position around the listener. These sounds can also be animated, so, for example, the sound of a vehicle driving past could appear to change its position while a helicopter flies overhead. The potential for this remarkable technology has just begun to be investigated, and the Sonic Trainer software is one of the first applications for this technology designed specifically to help teach OM skills. All that is required is a Windows based personal computer equipped with the requisite hardware, and a pair of headphones.

The Sonic Trainer software is currently part of a research grant funded by US Department of Education. This software is free, but if you use it we ask that you contact us so we may track its usage. The goal of this research is to determine the effectiveness of using simulation software and virtual reality technology to assist Orientation and Mobility (OM) training personnel with teaching OM skills to blind, and vision impaired students.

The Sonic Trainer software is developed by the Oregon Research Institute Applied Computer Simulation Labs. Our address and contact information are shown below.

Oregon Research Institute
Applied Computer Simulation Labs
1715 Franklin Blvd.
Eugene, OR 97403-1983
http://simlabs.ori.org


If you have any questions about how to use the Sonic Trainer software, or if you're having trouble getting the software to function, please contact http://simlabs.ori.org/contact.

Hardware:
  • 1 GHz (or faster) AMD or Intel processor.
  • 1 GB RAM (or more).
  • Creative Labs Audigy series 3-D Sound Card.
  • NVidia FX series or better recommended.
  • An InterSense InterTrax2 head tracker with 3 Degrees-of-Freedom.
  • External stereo speakers.
  • A headphone distribution amplifier such as the Rolls HA43.
  • 2 or more good quality headphones.

Software:

  • Windows XP, or Vista.
  • DirectX 10.


Uninstalling the Sonic Trainer Software:

If you previously installed the Sonic Trainer software on your computer and you're installing a newer version, you should uninstall the old version first. Uninstalling an older version of Sonic Trainer ensures that the software will function correctly, and removes any unneeded files from your computer's hard drive.

Please Note: The "Uninstall" program does not remove any user folders or user data files from your hard drive, so student data directories you have already set up will remain unchanged. Any preexisting user folders you created with Sonic Trainer will automatically be recognized by a newer version of the Sonic Trainer software.


1) To uninstall an older version of Sonic Trainer go to the "Start" menu and select Programs -> Sonic Trainer -> Uninstall from the pop-up menus.


An "Uninstall" window will appear.

Uninstall Image 1




2) Click the "Uninstall" button to remove the older version of the software.

Click "Cancel" if you don't want to remove the older version of the Sonic Trainer software.


Uninstall Image 2


You're now ready to install the latest version of "Sonic Trainer."



Installing the Sonic Trainer Software
:

1) Locate the Sonic Trainer installer application and double-click it.

.Install 1


2) Choose the options you want, or just leave all of the default options checked, then click "Next."

Install 2



3) The installer will indicate the directory the files will be installed within. It's best to use the default file path. Click "Next."


Install 3


4) The installer will copy the necessary files to your hard drive. When it's finished click "Close," or click the "X" in the upper right corner of the window.

The software is now installed.

Install 4



Running the Sonic Trainer Software
:

1) To run the Sonic Trainer software, locate the icon shown to the right and double-click it. You can find this icon on your computer's desktop. You can also run Sonic Trainer by going to Start Menu -> Programs -> SonicTrainer -> Sonic Trainer.

Sonic Trainer Icon


When Sonic Trainer is first run, a splash screen will be displayed. Hit any key, or click in the window with the mouse to exit the splash screen and continue running the program. You should now see a black background with a white grid, a head, and some text. If the head tracker was properly set up (see below) when you ran the program, the 3D head should rotate to match the position of the head tracker If you are not using a head tracker, you can left-click anywhere in the window and use the mouse to simulate a head tracker (If you need your mouse pointer back, left-click again.)

Before you can do anything or log any data, you need to select a user. Use the <TAB> key to bring up a list of users, highlight the user you want using the up and down arrow keys, and select the user with the <ENTER> key. Now, you should see the user that you selected in the "User:" text field in the main screen. Also, the test sequence will start automatically, there will be an icon of something on the screen, and "Sequence:" should be 1. Your test subject should be hearing something in the headphones. Now, you can run some tests. For an identification test, you can ask the subject what it is they are hearing. Hit "C" for correct, or "X" for incorrect. To test locating ability, tell the subject to look at the object and tap the spacebar. To test tracking ability, hold down the space bar for at least 2 seconds. The object on the screen will start to move, and data will be logged. When you are finished running tests on the current object, use the <ENTER> key to go to the next object in the sequence. Then the process is repeated.

After you have gone through the sequence, you may hit <TAB> again and select another user. Then, repeat the process for that user. Note also that there is a user called ( Guest ). This is a special default user, and when selected no data is written. This can be useful for demos, testing, or any other situation where no data needs to be logged. The ( Guest ) user is always selected when the program is started up, so to log data (and start a new session at the same time) you must use the <TAB> key and select a user. To start a session with the guest user, or to restart a trial for any user, use the <DELETE> key.

It is very important that your audio setup be correct, and that the proper channel is going to the proper ear. To test this, use the "<" (comma) and ">" (period) keys to test the left and right audio channels.



Setting up the Sonic Trainer Hardware
:


Connecting the Headphone Distribution Amplifier

The Sonic Trainer software is designed to help students improve their listening skills. For this reason it is important to use an external amplifier with the training system to maximize audio fidelity and have more control of the loudness of the sounds the student hears while using the training system.

A headphone distribution amplifier allows you to send the same audio signal to one or more headphones simultaneously. In addition, each pair of headphones hooked up to the distribution amplifier has an independent volume control, so the loudness can be adjusted for each listener. This is especially useful if you want to hear what the student hears, at a volume that best suits you, while offering complete independent control of the volume the student receives.

Below, are two headphone distribution amplifiers we recommend. One is made by the Rolls corporation, and costs about $70, and the other is available at Radio Shack for about $20.

The Rolls headphone distribution amplifier can be plugged into a standard AC outlet, has individual volume control for up to six pairs of headphones, and can output a louder signal than the Radio Shack unit.

The Radio Shack "3-Channel Headphone Volume Booster" (Part # 33-1109) is smaller and somewhat more portable than the Rolls unit. It requires 2 AA batteries and can handle up to 3 pairs of headphones. There is no individual volume control for each pair of connected headphones, and the amp has less volume output than the Rolls unit.

Either headphone amplifier will work with the Sonic Trainer program. If you need to purchase a distribution amplifier please contact the ORI Applied Computer Simulation Labs and we will tell you where you can purchase one.


The setup for the Rolls headphone distribution amplifier is shown in the image below.

Amplifier Setup


A
- This is where you plug the headphone distribution amplifier into the computer's sound card. The computer sound card has several plug "jacks," so you may have to look carefully to make sure you're using the correct one. Often, the jack you'll want to use on the sound card will be the second one from the right as you're facing the machine from the front. If you plug the cable into the wrong jack you won't hurt anything, but you won't hear anything either.


B
- The power plug. You should see a bright red light when the amplifier is powered on.


C
- Headphone output jacks. You can hook up to four headphones to the Sonic Trainer system at once, if you like. Usually, you'll want just two: one for you, and one for your student. However, it's sometimes useful to hook up two additional guests, so the option is available, provided you have enough headphones. If possible, try to set the volume level of the student's headphones consistently, so their listening experience is as comfortable and conducive to learning as possible.



The setup for the Radio Shack 3-Channel Headphone Volume Booster is shown in the image below.

Amplifier Type



You will need (2) AA batteries for this unit. Below is a diagram to show how the batteries should be installed.

Installing Amplifier Batteries



Connecting the 3-D Head Tracker:

The head tracker is an unusual piece of equipment. On the outside it looks like a thumb-sized piece of plastic, but inside is a very sophisticated, tiny gyroscopic mechanism that can very accurately measure the inertial changes that occur as it is moved in space. The InterSense head tracker provides three-degrees-of-freedom, which means that it can inform the computer of roll, pitch, and yaw, which translate into X,Y,Z coordinate positions that allow the computer to accurately measure changes in position to within thousandths of an inch. The head tracker is key to the Sonic Trainer software as it allows the computer to determine how to "reposition" a sound when the student turns their head, and provides an accurate measurement tool to evaluate the student's listening skills.

The head tracker is mounted with Velcro on a baseball cap. When the baseball cap is placed on the student's head the bill should face backward. This allows the cable to fall behind the student, so it's out of the way, and makes it easy to slip headphones on the student, over the baseball cap. The head tracker needs a serial port on the back of the computer. The plug for the serial port will only fit on one or two of the connectors on the back of the computer, but it doesn't matter which one. It will figure out where it's plugged in automatically. The head tracker must also be plugged into an AC wall outlet, so make sure both the serial cable and the AC connector are hooked up before you use it.

Calibrating the 3-D Head Tracker:

Before you can use the head tracker for training it has to be calibrated. Fortunately, calibration is easy. There's a small round button on the left side of the head tracker that reset it's X,Y,Z positions to zero. This is necessary only when the head tracker is first placed on a student's head. If you don't calibrate the head tracker, the computer won't accurately know where the student's head is pointing. The picture below shows you where the reset/calibration button is located.


Head Tracker Reset Button


Using the 3-D head tracker
:

Sonic Trainer was designed to use the InterTrax series of head trackers manufactured by InterSense. The newer versions of the InterTrax have a USB (Universal Serial Bus) connector, which makes them extremely easy to connect since the power is supplied through the same plug as the USB connector. The unit shown above has a USB connector and is about as small as an average person's thumb.

The older InterTrax head tracking units plug into the serial port of the computer, and also require a separate AC power supply connection to function. The older InterTrax units must be plugged into either the COM1 or COM2 ports of your computer, but since the program auto-detects the active serial port, the head tracker needs to be powered and plugged in BEFORE the program is run.

If you have any questions about hooking up your particular model of InterTrax head tracker please do not hesitate to contact us. We recommend the USB model because of its lighter weight and simpler connection.




Using Sonic Trainer Skill Building Mode:


When the program is first run, a splash screen will be displayed. Hit any key, or click in the window with the mouse to exit the splash screen and continue running the program. You should now see a black background with a white grid, a head, and some text. If the head tracker was properly set up (see below) when you ran the program, the 3D head should rotate to match the position of the head tracker. If you are not using a head tracker, you can left-click anywhere in the window and use the mouse to simulate a head tracker. (If you need your mouse pointer back, left-click again.)

The spacebar toggles the sound off and on. The arrow keys can be used to move the sound. The top row of letters on your keyboard positions a sound at a preset location. A sound can also be moved left or right at different speeds with the middle row of keyboard letters. The number keys select the sounds. It is possible to have more than one sound playing at once. If you have several sounds playing, you can use the <M> key to mute them. There are also additional banks of sounds that can be selected using the function keys. The number of banks available and the sounds that are in those banks are determined by the "soundlist.cfg" file (see below.) Hitting the <`> key (under <ESC>) will randomly select a sound in a sequence. It will never re-select a sound that has already been selected, but will randomly pick a sound that hasn't been selected.

For training purposes, there is a feature that will make a "click" sound whenever the user turns his or her head past the sound. In other words, when moving your head back and forth to try to locate a sound, you will hear a click each time the "offset angle" passes the zero point. This feature can be toggled with the <;> key.

To select a user and log data, use the <TAB> key to bring up a list of users, highlight the user you want using the up and down arrow keys, and select the user with the <ENTER> key. Now, you should see the user that you selected in the "User:" text field in the main screen. User ( Guest ) is a special default user, and when selected no data is written. This can be useful for demos, testing, or any other situation where no data needs to be logged. The ( Guest ) user is always selected when the program is started up, so to log data (and start a new session at the same time) you must use the <TAB> key and select a user. To start a session with the guest user, or to restart a trial for any user, use the <DELETE> key.

It is very important that your audio setup be correct, and that the proper channel is going to the proper ear. To test this, use the < and > key to test the left and right audio channels.

If you forget what key does what, just hit the / key (the key with the question mark) to bring up a help screen.



Using Sonic Trainer Evaluation Mode
:


The evaluation mode of Sonic Trainer is used to test different listening abilities of a student. The evaluation mode of Sonic Trainer should be used to determine a student's abilities before any training occurs, and after every two hours of training time thereafter. Otherwise, student training should be done with the "skills" mode of the Sonic Trainer software, described above.


The "evaluation" mode of Sonic Trainer is almost identical to the "skills" mode, but is designed only to capture student performance "trials" and log the data, so the differences in the student's abilities can be measured and correlated.


When using the "evaluation" mode of the software the sounds are placed randomly and moved automatically, providing a consistent basis for the evaluation, regardless of who is operating the software. Depending on how the trials are run, and how the data are interpreted, the following can be determined:

1. The student's ability to recognize a sound.

2. The student's ability to localize a static sound.

3. The student's ability to track a moving sound.

Sonic Trainer Key Commands


Common Keys (work the same way in both modes)

Esc Quit program.
, / . Test Left / Right sound channels.
Tab Choose a user.
F1 Show the "Help" screen.
F2 Show the "Splash" screen.
F3 Switch to "Skill" mode.
F4 Switch to "Evaluation" mode.
B Blank / Unblank screen.
N Save a screenshot.


Skill Building Mode Keys
Shift + 0-9 Select a sound bank. (hold SHIFT + a number key 0-9)
1-9 Select a sound object to manipulate.
` Select random object
Q,W,E,R,(T,)Y,U,I,O Position object (T is center)
A,S,D,F,(G,)H,J,K,L Start object moving at constant speed (G stops)
Arrow keys Move object left / right / closer / further away.
Spacebar Toggle selected sound on / off.
Delete Key Reset all icons and sounds to the default position.
M Mute all sounds.
V Toggle on-target sounds on / off .


Evaluation Mode Keys
Spacebar Continue on to next step.
Delete Start / Reset evaluation sequence.
C Correct sound identification.
X Incorrect sound identification.




Creating a User Directory and Managing Users:


The Sonic Trainer software is designed to facilitate the teaching of basic orientation and mobility skills, and to collect student performance data relating to the OM skills taught. To do this the software requires that each student be given a unique directory, or folder, into which the data for that student are collected.

The Sonic Trainer software requires a separate folder to be created for each student using it. This way the computer can keep each student's data separate from other student data, and it makes it easy to keep track of the unique data files created for each student.

When the computer displays a list of all of the users (students) for whom data can be collected, it uses the name of the folder for that student to determine the name of the student. In other words, for each student using the Sonic Trainer software there should be a unique folder created, which is given the same name as that student. The folder only has to be created once, and henceforth the software will know where to store the student's data when the student is logged in as the user.

To facilitate the creation of a unique directory for a student a "User Manager" application has been developed. With the "User Manager" you can create and rename student directories very easily. Below you will be shown two methods for creating student (user) directories. The first method is the easiest, and therefore the preferred method to use. The second method requires a little more knowledge of how to use the Windows operating system, but will produce the same end result.


Creating a User Directory - Method 1:

The easiest way to create a folder (directory) for a student is to use the "User Manager" program.


1) Click the "Start" menu and select Programs -> Sonic Trainer -> User Manager.

The "User Manager" window will appear.

User Manager Screen 1


2) To add a new user click the "Add User" button. Type the name of the student in the "User Name" box, then click "Add" to add the student.

User Manager Screen 2


3) When you're finished adding or renaming users, click "Done," or click "X" to close the "User Manager" window.

User Manager Screen 3



Creating a User Directory - Method 2
:

This method of creating a user directory for Sonic Trainer uses the Windows desktop. If the following steps seem too difficult or complicated, you can use Method 1, shown above.If Sonic Trainer is installed correctly, a shortcut to the directory containing the user data should be visible on the desktop of your computer. This directory is called "SonicUsers," and looks like the image below.

Create New user Screen



If you double-click the "SonicUsers" folder you'll see a window containing folders for each student for which the computer collects data.

Create New User Screen 2



The easiest way to add a folder (directory) for a new user is to "right click" in the "users" window and choose New -> Folder.

Create New User Screen 3



Type a name for the user, then hit the "ENTER" key on your keyboard.

That's all there is to it. Once a folder is set up for a student the computer will always know where to store the performance data for that student, and you won't have to go through this process again.

When you start up Sonic Trainer, and hit the TAB key, the user directory you added will be available from the list.

Select User Screen


Please Note
: It's important to always choose the correct user when you begin to work with a student with Sonic trainer. Since the Sonic Trainer software is intended to be used as part of a research study it's vital that the computer logs data for the right student so the results of this research will be valid.



Changing the Configuration Files:

Configuration files are text files Sonic Trainer uses to alter the way it functions, or to set specific program properties, such as how large to render the screen, or how to label sound icons displayed within the program. In most cases you shouldn't need to alter the configuration files for Sonic Trainer, but the following information is provided in case you do.

Please Note: It's possible to change a configuration file in such a way that Sonic Trainer will not function. To be extra safe, it's a good idea to make a backup copy of a configuration file before you alter it. Changing a configuration file is for advanced users. If you think you need to change the configuration of Sonic Trainer, but you aren't sure, please contact the ORI Applied Computer Simulation Labs.

Configuration (config) files end with the extension ".cfg." Sonic Trainer has two configuration files, one for the graphics (opengl.cfg) and one for the sounds (soundlist.cfg). To change the settings in the configuration files you have to edit these .cfg files in a text editor such as Notepad. For example, to change the screen resolution Sonic Trainer uses when it starts up, change the width and Height values in opengl.cfg.



Backing Up Data
:

At some point you will need to back up the data files for the students who have user "accounts" for the Sonic Trainer software. The user accounts keep track of the activity performance (data) of each student using the Sonic Trainer software so it can be evaluated by the Applied Computer Simulations Labs for research purposes. All user accounts for the Sonic Trainer software are stored in the following location on your hard drive:

C:\ORI-ACSL\SonicTrainer\users

Each student's data are stored in a unique directory in plain text files. It is extremely important that each student is logged in correctly when they use the Sonic Trainer software so the appropriate data are stored in the correct file.

To simplify the backing up of user data files a "Data Manager" program has been developed, and was installed on your computer with the Sonic Trainer software. The "Data Manager" is a simple program that makes it easy to back up all user data files to one or more floppy disks. The "Data Manager" automatically tracks the files that have already been backed up, and tells you how many floppy disks will be needed. The "Data Manager" program can be found on our web site at:

DataManager.exe

The "Data Manager" program is only 20 KB in and should download quickly, even with a slow Internet connection. If you have installed the Wheelchair Net software you will find the Data Manager in the WCNET directory in the Start menu.

NOTE: The Data Manager program only makes a copy of the data files stored on your computer and does not erase any files on your hard drive.


Sonic Trainer Data backup Manager Location



The "Data Backup Manager" screen will appear when you first click the "Data Manager" screen. The "Name" field is for you to enter your name, and the "Location" field is for the location, or city where you are located. This makes it much easier to determine the origin of specific floppy disks we may receive through the mail when data are sent to us.

All recognized Sonic Trainer users appear in a list on the right side of the screen to show which user files will be backed up when selected. To back up the data files for all users click the "Select/Deselect" button on the bottom right area of the window so all of the user names are highlighted. Otherwise, SHIFT-CLICK, or CONTROL-CLICK the names of specific user files you would like to back up.

Sonic Trainer Data backup Manager Window


Once you have told the software which users' data you would like to back up you may click the "Backup to Floppy" button. The "Backup Manager" software will tell you how many floppy disks will be required. In the case below only one floppy disk will be needed.


Disks Required Dialog


When you click the "OK" button in the above dialog window you will be asked to insert a floppy disk into your drive. Make sure the floppy disk has been formatted, and that it has no other files on it, then click the "OK" button.

Insert Disk dialog


It may take up to several minutes to back up the data files to the floppy disk(s). When the process is finished you will see the following dialog window informing you of the mailing address to send the floppy disk to the Applied Computer Simulation Labs.

Backup Successful Dialog


If you have already backed up files to one or more floppy disks you might see a dialog window similar to the one below.


Sonic Trainer Data backup Manager Window



Backing Up User Data Files Without the Data Manager Program:

All data files for the Sonic Trainer software are stored in the following location on your hard drive:

C:\ORI-ACSL\SonicTrainer\users

You may copy the entire "users" directory from the above location to a flash drive, CD-ROM, or other storage medium if you like, and this will effectively make a copy of all of the data for all users of the Sonic Trainer software. The Data Manager program was designed only as a simple and alternative means to backup user data.