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Notes from Sonification Interview videos

  • FL tested with #605, 606, 607 (Early Sep)

  • FL tested with #603, 602, 608, 609 (Late Sep, early Oct)

  • These interviews are working from v1.4.0-jump.9 build of FL (currently 1.4.0-dev.54)

    • A number of changes have been made based on feedback from the Early Sep. group which has not been tested w users.

    • The fundamental issues with the experience with text alerts remain

      • These issues can be addressed with switch to explicit grab/release interaction


  • PhET io sonification wrapper 1.0.0-dev.77

  • Listened to most of DOM descriptions, and self initiated movement

Too many alerts and too long


  1. Users not waiting to listen to whole alert - just listening to the first part: "magnet at center of play area"
  2. Lots of alerts are being fired (see #603 during exploration around coil @ ~2:00). Distracting from the sonification.
  3. "Far from 4 loop coil. Very close to 2 loop coil." is too long.

Option 1:

  • Text alerts only state proximity relative to coils
  • Remove play area location from text alerts as they are redundant
  • Put closest coil first in text alert.
  • Shorten from "Far from 4 loop coil. Very close to 2 loop coil."  to "2 loop coil very close, 4 loop coil far."
  • Fire alerts only when thresholds are crossed, not on every stroke / key-up event.

Option 2:


  • The original design was to only fire alerts when certain thresholds were passed. In the dev version alerts are being fired regardless whether a threshold was transitioned
  • Pauses between text alert messages makes people think that's all there is.

Keep or remove Coil to the Left / Right alert?


  • The alert for "coil to left / right" can come across as jarring when already near the coil.
  • Example, some confusion for #603 after that alert "4 loop coil to the right" (2:50 - 2:54).
  • However, same user used the text cue at 36:15 and knew to move left to the coil. Uses text cue again at 43:10 to find 2nd coil


  • Remove this alert. Users seem to manage without it, and get confused with it.


  • The original intention of this alert is to help users “set up” their magnet so they know when the coil is to the left or right.

Coil collision and text alert appear mismatched


  • When coil is bumped, a "bong" sound is heard, but text alert says: "magnet at center of play area".
  • This creates an incorrect association and explanation.
  • Example: For #603  at 2:25, magnet inside coil and hit the top of coil. "bong" sound heard, but text alert says: "magnet at center of play area".
    • Text alert creating confusion because it's not describing what the "bong" sound means

Option 1:

  • Remove text alert all together and just have the "bong" sound.

Option 2:

  • When collision occurs, text alert should just say: "bumped a coil".


  • Play area edge bump and text alert is an example where this works well: edge bump sound is accompanied by an alert saying the magnet is at the edge

Shorten the Play Area Edge Text Alert


  • The play area edge bump text alert is a bit too long.

Option 1:

  • Change: "Magnet at middle-right edge of play area"
  • To: "At edge" or "At edge of play area",

Option 2:

  • Remove edge bump text alert (edge bump sound may be sufficient).


  • Alert seemed good. User immediately reversed directions (#603)

Tweak Circuit Mode Radio Button Text Alert


  • Not every user listens to the full text alert when switching modes.
  • The two text alerts start off sounding the same.


  • Currently:
    • "Circuit now has two different coils"
    • "Circuit now has one coil"
  • Change to:
    • "Two different coils now connected."
    • "One coil now connected".

Add coil location to scene summary and circuit description


  • Scene summary currently lacks any information to establish the location of the coil in the play area.
  • Motivation: much of the text descriptions and alerts describe magnet and coil, and yet the coil is not mentioned at all in the scene summary.


Scene summary"Faraday's Law‬ is an interactive sim. It changes as you play with it.

The play area has a light bulb circuit, and a moveable bar magnet. There are controls that change what is connected to the circuit, flip the bar magnet, and reset the sim.

Move the magnet to play using arrow keys, W A S D, or 1 2 3 keys.

If needed, check out keyboard shortcuts under Sim Resources."

"Faraday's Law‬ is an interactive sim. It changes as you play with it.

At the centre of the play area is a coil* connected to a light bulb circuit. There is a also moveable bar magnet.

Move the magnet to play using arrow keys, W A S D, or 1 2 3 keys.

Additional controls that change what is connected to the circuit, flip the bar magnet, and reset the sim. If needed, check out keyboard shortcuts under Sim Resources."

*Change "is a coil" to "are two different coils" if both coils are showing.

Circuit PDOM description (1 coil)"In circuit are a light bulb, a 4 loop coil, and a voltmeter. The coil is sideways, with openings on the left and right.""Connected to the circuit are a 4 loop coil, light bulb, and a voltmeter. The coil is at the centre of the play area. The coil is sideways, with openings on the left and right."
Circuit PDOM description (2 coils)"In a circuit are a:
  • Light bulb
  • 4 loop coil
  • 2 loop coil
  • Voltmeter

The coils are sideways, with openings on the left and right."

"Connected to the circuit are a:
  • light bulb
  • 4 loop coil
  • 2 loop coil
  • volt meter

The coils are at the centre of the play area. The coils are sideways, both with openings on the left and right."

Descriptiveness Concerns

  • "In 4 loop coil." ... #603 had some confusion about what that meant. (7:40)

Add "Select magnet" to the instructions for moving it


  • Currently the scene summary and PDOM description of the magnet states they keys to move the magnet but omits the fact they need to select it first.

Suggested fix:

Scene summary"Move the magnet to play using arrow keys, W A S D, or 1 2 3 keys.""How to play with the magnet: select magnet; move using arrow keys, W A S D, or 1 2 3 keys."
Magnet PDOM description"Use the W A S D keys to move the magnet in four directions. Use 1 2 3 keys to slide magnet left and right.""How to play with the magnet: Select the magnet; use the W A S D keys to move in four directions; use 1 2 3 keys to slide left and right.


  • #603
    • 22:55 - figures out association of sound with being in the 4 loop coil
    • 23:11 - figures out closer you get the more intense the sound
    • 25:00 - trying to figure out what the bong sound is and why it happens.
    • 29:00 - changed rate of speech, the pause throws user off. Increasing rate helps
    • Didn't feel descriptions were enough
    • Knew there was a coil and magnet, and poles.
    • 30:00 - discovers volt meter
      • unchecks it but the volt mete is still visible. something wrong?
    • 33:50 - asked what happens when magnet moved through coil at different speeds
      • doesn't know if it does anything because it just tell him that it's in the centre of the play area.
    • 35:00
      • Wasn't sure there was more than 1 way to move the coil
      • Didn't know you can press and hold
      • Looking for a change in the description as a result of moving faster, but the text alerts remain the same (issue with text alerts disconnected w sonification)
    • 36:44
      • Prompted to switch coil modes
    • 39:00-16
      • Flipping poles, but after flipping had no way of remembering the polarity. Said: "I guess that's something you just have to remember"
      • But the description is in the PDOM. Is that enough?
    • 42:00
      • Confusion over an empty Level 2 header
    • 43:00
      • Was reminded there was already a 2nd coil. User forgot and was prompted.
    • 43:30
      • Searching for 2 loop coil.
      • Text alert said "to the right" an49d used that as a cue.
    • 44:30
      • properly describes the magnet position relative to the 2 coils and knows there's a the difference between the coils because of the different bump sounds.
    • 49:00
      • Describing the sounds. Knows the more intense organ sound is important, but admits to explore it more
      • (warning) Text alerts are getting in the way.
    • 52:12
      • Asked what happens when you move magnet quickly and said they couldn't tell the difference in sound.
    • 53:00
      • Asked about the differences in coil sounds
      • Can't figure out if there's a difference. Spent so much time figuring out positioning that wasn't focusing and remembering the difference in sounds between the 2 coils.
    • 56:04
      • Identifies that the sounds in the 2 loop coil are lighter and not as deep compared to the 4 loop coil
      • Says that the sounds from the 2 loop coil "all of them" are a pitch higher.
    • 58:16
      • Asking to describe the sounds when flipping magnet, but magnet is inside the coil
      • can hear a difference between the different polarity.
    • 1:00:00
      • Asked to describe the sim as if to a friend.
      • Described it has something to do with magnet and electricity, and differences between two coils
      • Hasn't quite figured out the purpose of the N and S poles
    • 1:01:00
      • Asked whether this will help someone with impairment understand FL?
      • Answers tentatively, it's a memory thing - keep remembering what state it was previously
    • 1:02:00
      • Said it would be great if there was some way to get a quick reference "this is what it is and this is where you are"
      • You have to tab or shift-tab to find out stuff and it can be confusing.
    • 1:04:00
      • What do you like / dislike?
      • Dislikes not knowing what's going on.
      • Says they would like to be oriented "on my own". Feels like they will need to find a sighted person.
    • 1:06:00
      • Compare to other sims used previously?
      • Said having some previous experience does help. Knows to use arrow keys, knows to more through descriptions.
      • Didn't get a good sense what is happening in FL.
      • Said this one is a more complex, says he feels stupid. Still hasn't figure out what the point of the N and S poles are.
    • 1:09:00
      • (warning) Wasn't clear that the N and S poles are ON the magnet. Didn't make the association.
    • 1:10:40
      • Asked about whether the sound and descriptions worked well together
      • Says they worked well, but had to get used to the presence of the pause that was throwing them off.
      • Increasing speech rate helped.
      • Doesn't like when the tones and descriptions overlap each other - not clear
        • Doesn't think there was a problem with overlapping
        • Says can hear both description and tones comfortably - one isn't louder than the other
    • 1:12:20
      • Asked if there was a instance where the sounds and description really helped make something clear.
      • Tones and the dings with description let them know they hit something key.
      • Associates the presence of sound with getting to the "meat of things"
    • Sim's capabilities meet my requirements - Agree.
    • Using the sim is a frustrating experience - somewhat agree
    • Using the sim is easy to use - somewhat disagree
    • I have to spend too much time correcting things in the sim - strongly disagree
    • Sound were helpful - strongly agree
    • Sounds were interesting - strongly agree
    • Sounds were pleasant - strongly agree
    • Sounds were easy to understand - strongly agree
    • Sounds were relatable to their ideas - strongly agree
    • Easy to matych sounds to the meanings - strongly agree
    • It was difficult to understand how the sounds changed from one variable to the next - strongly disagree (more of a memory issue
    • Sounds were fun - somewhat agree
    • It was boring sound - disagree
    • Confusing - disagree
    • Easy to understand what the sounds mean - Strongly agree
    • The sim was complex - somewhat agree
    • The sim is easy to use - somewhat disagree
    • I need a technical support to use this - disagree
    • Functions were well integrated - somewhat agree
    • Too much inconsistency in the sim - disagree
    • I think others will learn to use this sim quickly - somewhat agree
    • I found it awkward to use - neutral
    • I felt confident using this sim - somewhat disagree


  • 608 Appears to be an experienced user - faster rate of speech, navigating quickly through PDOM
  • 3:00 - appears to be having problems figuring out that focusing on the magnet is where you begin.
    • looking through the PDOM multiple times, and the Control Area, but can't find where to begin.
  • 4:10 - comments about missing something
  • 5:30
    • Asked what she was looking for, and was told to switch modes from Browse to Forms mode
    • (question) How often does this situation come up? Should instructions be put somewhere (i.e. in the Help or scene summary?)
  • 7:30
    • "I'm very confused" - can't seem to figure out how to get to magnet and move it

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