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Published February 2, 2018 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Generic HRTFs May be Good Enough in Virtual Reality. Improving Source Localization through Cross-Modal Plasticity


Auditory spatial localization in humans is performed using a combination of interaural time differences, interaural level differences, as well as spectral cues provided by the geometry of the ear. To render spatialized sounds within a virtual reality (VR) headset, either individualized or generic Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTFs) are usually employed. The former require arduous calibrations, but enable accurate auditory source localization, which may lead to a heightened sense of presence within VR. The latter obviate the need for individualized calibrations, but result in less accurate auditory source localization. Previous research on auditory source localization in the real world suggests that our representation of acoustic space is highly plastic. In light of these findings, we investigated whether auditory source localization could be improved for users of generic HRTFs via cross-modal learning. The results show that pairing a dynamic auditory stimulus, with a spatio-temporally aligned visual counterpart, enabled users of generic HRTFs to improve subsequent auditory source localization. Exposure to the auditory stimulus alone or to asynchronous audiovisual stimuli did not improve auditory source localization. These findings have important implications for human perception as well as the development of VR systems as they indicate that generic HRTFs may be enough to enable good auditory source localization in VR.

Additional Information

© 2018 Berger, Gonzalez-Franco, Tajadura-Jiménez, Florencio and Zhang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Received: 22 August 2017; Accepted: 11 January 2018; Published: 02 February 2018. Author Contributions: MG-F, CB, DF, ZZ: Designed the experiments; MG-F: Developed the rendering apparatus; CB: Prepared and ran the experiments; CB and MG-F: Analyzed the data; CB, MG-F, AT-J, DF, and ZZ: Discussed the data; CB and MG-F: Wrote the paper, AT: Provided critical revisions. Funding: Support of RYC-2014-15421 and PSI2016-79004-R ("MAGIC SHOES: Changing sedentary lifestyles by altering mental body-representation using sensory feedback;" AEI/FEDER, UE) grants, Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad of Spain. Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors report their affiliation to Microsoft, an entity with a financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript. The authors however have conducted the review following scientific research standards, and declare that the current manuscript presents a balanced and unbiased studies.

Attached Files

Supplemental Material - data_sheet_1.zip

Published - fnins-12-00021.pdf

Supplemental Material - video_1.mp4


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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023