Training birdsong recognition using virtual reality
Background Commonly, Species Monitoring is performed in mega-biodiverse environments by using bioacoustics methodologies where the species are more likely to be heard than seen. Furthermore, since bird vocalizations are reasonable estimators of biodiversity, their monitoring is of great importance in the formulation of conservation policies. However, birdsong recognition is an arduous task that requires dedicated training to achieve mastery; this training is costly in terms of time and money due to the lack of accessibility of relevant information in field trips or even on specialized databases. Immersive technology based on virtual reality (VR) and spatial audio may improve Species Monitoring by enhancing information accessibility, interaction, and user engagement. Methods This study used spatial audio, a Bluetooth controller, and a Head-mounted Display (HMD) to conduct an immersive training experience in VR. Participants moved inside a virtual world using a Bluetooth controller while their task was to recognize targeted birdsongs. We measured the accuracy of the recognition and the user engagement according to the User Engagement Scale. Results Experimental results revealed significantly higher engagement and accuracy for participants in the VR-based training system when compared to a traditional computer-based training system. All four dimensions of the user engagement scale received high ratings by the participants suggesting that VR-based training provides a motivating and attractive environment to learn demanding tasks through appropriate design, exploiting the sensory system and the virtual reality interactivity. Conclusions The accuracy and engagement of a VR-based training system were significantly highly rated when tested against traditional training. Future research will focus on developing a variety of realistic ecosystems and their associated birds to increase the information of newer bird species in the training system. Finally, the proposed VR-based training system must be tested with additional participants and for a greater duration to measure information recall and recognition mastery among users.
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