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Human Factors

Human Factors, or Human Factors Engineering (HF/HFE) is the systematic assessment and accommodation of the human element in a man-machine interface.  It is a broad field, including both physical human factors (i.e. operation of industrial machinery, or maintenance of correct posture in an office environment), and cognitive human factors (i.e. human-centred design of in-vehicle information systems; also known as cognitive ergonomics).  In the Cognitive informatics team we have a number of capabilities in this category.

Remote assessment of operator workload

One of the primary applications over the past 2 FY has been to develop a methodology for the remote assessment of cognitive workload, which can be applied in a number of operational environments.  Traditional workload testing technique such as Instantaneous Situation Awareness and Subjective Workload Assessment generally interrupt the task being assessed, in order to obtain a rating.  As an alternative, we have been looking into methodologies including Electro-Dermal Activity, Electroencephalography, Decision Response Task (DRT), and Pupillometry, as alternate means of gathering workload data.

Human Robot Interaction  / Cognitive Robotics

As robots transition from hard-coded environments such as heavy manufacturing, and become increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life, it is desirable to develop systems where the human and robotic elements co-operate in a functional and safe way.  In this sense, we strive to develop robotic systems that can account for the human element, and also develop systems in which the human can leverage his/her natural ability via the appropriate use of robotic technology.  An example of this is the robotic pick-and-place project conducted in FY14/15 (image below).  In this demonstrator, team members used eye-tracking equipment to measure the position of gaze on a chess board.  After determining the desired location, the robotic arm then places the test piece accordingly.  Other examples of HRI include work in the Mining Informatics project, and the Health Tech project.

Figure 1: Robot tele-operation pick and place task
Figure 1: Robot tele-operation pick and place task a) Experimental Set up (left), and b) actual system (right)

 

Experimental technique for theory assessment

One of the main goals of our team is to scientifically test assumptions and interpretations from the literature.  We have published various articles over the past 2 FY, on subjects such as Fitts Law, Visual Indexing Theory, and various image processing concepts.

UI / UX design

UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) are two important areas in the study of human computer interaction.  These disciplines revolve around the development of interface systems that support, rather than conflict with the natural human ways of interacting.  A well designed system will be pleasing to operate, and offer efficiency advantages over systems that don’t take the user into account.