Smart interfaces reduce human error
“Too much information can leave us feeling overwhelmed. A context-aware and proactive decision support system that provides only the right amount of relevant information at the right time reduces stress and helps users stay in control,” says researcher Xiangbin Xu (right). He is wearing smart glasses meant for a supervisor, and Luis Gonzales is wearing operator glasses combined with a helmet.
If we are bombarded with too much information, we can easily get distracted and, for example, take the wrong turn while driving. Smart Human-Machine Interfaces reduce the chances of human error and help us make informed decisions, especially in critical situations.
When airline pilots are preparing for takeoff and planning the flight ahead, they have to check and manage dozens of cockpit systems at the same time to ensure the safety of hundreds of passengers. Similarly, a fire engine driver on his way to a fire scene must divide his attention between observing road signs and traffic lights, listening to the navigator’s instructions, and answering the phone when the emergency centre calls, all the while talking to the fire commander.
Context-aware and proactive user interfaces and a reasoning assistance system developed by researchers at TUT and their partners improve the way people deal with huge amounts of complex information. The FAST-Lab research group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Systems at TUT focuses on the research of horizontal technologies that are applicable to many different user domains, such as avionics, the automotive industry, emergency management and industrial automation.
It’s all about contextualising information
For the past three years, researchers have been engaged in the multidisciplinary and technology-oriented European project ASTUTE (ProActive Decision Support for Data-Intensive Environments).
“The idea is to provide only the information that the user needs in a particular place at a particular time. Relevant real-time information and instructions are delivered directly to the user’s device in whatever format that best fits the user’s needs at that moment. They can consist of images, audio or text,” says Professor Jose L. Martinez Lastra, who heads the ASTUTE project in Finland.
The information and instructions are based on data that is gathered, processed and filtered by intelligent sensors. By combining real, existing scenes from the user’s environment with advanced 3D and augmented reality content, the Human-Machine Interface provides extra information that helps users by anticipating tasks ahead and supporting their decision making processes.
Using smart devices
“To display contextualised information in a user-friendly way, we are also taking into account the devices people use. In a building management application, a maintenance man may be wearing smart glasses or a smart watch, whereas in an emergency management situation a firefighter is carrying a mobile phone.”
“We have been developing a systematic approach and reference architecture for building multimodal and pro-active interfaces for embedded systems that support decision-making processes," Martinez Lastra explains.
Applications for pilots, drivers and rescue personnel
The European industrial companies participating in the ASTUTE project have developed and demonstrated different types of user interfaces for various applications.
The Intelligent Cockpit concept features the novel Anticipation Support for Aeronautical Planning (ASAP) system, which provides aircraft crew with real-time updated information on their workflow, critical actions to be taken, as well as information that assists in the prioritisation of tasks, facilitating the management of the pilot’s cognitive resources. The ASAP system has been tested with 36 pilots.
The Emergency Dispatching System is a map-centric mobile platform that enables better coordination and execution of emergency dispatching procedures via proactive information delivery that takes into account user state and context. The adaptive and multimodal Human-Machine Interface improves situational awareness and optimises communication between the control centre and field workers, such as the fire commander and firefighters.
The Automotive Infotainment System is a proactive recommender system where recommendations are pushed automatically according to the current driver’s profile and car context, conveying the information using different channels. The Human-Machine Interface integrates 3D images with the real environment, and the intuitive navigation and user intention support system delivers information containing augmented reality elements to drivers without distracting them.
The Virtual Control Room concept allows timely monitoring and control of an automated environment. It involves an efficient decision support system for various user groups that selects only relevant aspects of the information and displays them directly to the user. This concept is suited for two different domains. The Senior House is a building management solution for smart houses used for assisted living of the elderly. The Manufacturing Process Management solution is meant for monitoring factories and industrial processes and premises.
The Senior House concept has already been commercialised, and the rest will be brought to the market within a year’s time, according to Professor Martinez Lastra.
The ASTUTE project (1 March 2011 – 31 May 2014) is an EU-funded project under the ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking Initiative. It has a budget of 13 million euros, 1.4 million euros of which was awarded to TUT.
Text: Leena Koskenlaakso
Photo: Mika Kanerva