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Behavioral studies of multisensory integration and cross-modal spatial attention have identified many potential benefits of using interfaces that engage more than just a single sense in complex operating environments. Particularly relevant in terms of application, the latest research highlights that: 1) multimodal signals can be used to reorient spatial attention effectively under conditions of high operator workload in which unimodal signals may be ineffective; 2) multimodal signals are less likely to be masked in noisy environments; and 3) there are natural links between specific signals and particular behavioral responses (e.g., head turning). However, taking advantage of these potential benefits requires that interface designers take into account the limitations of the human operator. In particular, multimodal interfaces should normally be designed so as to minimize any spatial incongruence between component warning signals presented in different sensory modalities that relate to the same event. Building on this rapidly growing cognitive neuroscience knowledge base, the last decade has witnessed the development of a number of highly effective multimodal interfaces for driving, aviation, the military, medicine, and sports. © 1963-2012 IEEE.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings of the IEEE

Publication Date





2113 - 2122