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Research Project

Previously, Research Project Spring 04


During the spring, the project concentrated on webcam and large display interaction. A review of the literature turned up several projects very similar to the one I was pursuing.

I decided to shift the focus more toward large display interaction, and chose to look into a project going on at Tennessee Rand Automation. There, they were setting up a large display to display the progress of projects. The use was very limited in the summer, and most of my effort was in communicating with the employees about what information they would find useful.

During my last trip, the project display was eventually deployed in a corner of the shop floor, but still had limited use. I began designing alternative visualizations for the data while setting up scripts to grab the information. I collected some usage information from one of the personnel managers, as well as some information about what some see as lacking in the system.

One of the interesting questions during the entire process is how to evaluate large displays. There exists literature for the evaluation of groupware, information visualizations, and ambient displays, but few have tackled issues specific with large displays. How are the aforementioned areas mediated through large displays, what do large displays give us, how can we help the design of large display applications?


Initial visits (spring, summer semester)

The system was only partially implemented, status was effectively still conceptual. Users wanted to track projects, and progress of projects. Projects would be displayed in a matrix consisting of projects and stages. Projects near the top are closer to the deadline, and stages go from left to right in order that they should be completed. Stages were defined to match the stages of the most common type of project: integration of robotic welding cells. One of the main goals is to prevent jobs from slipping through the tracks.

Recent visits(fall semester)

An employee finished developing the interface using current in-house interface tools. These tools design industrial interfaces and can interface with PLC's and databases. The interface has been in use for several months.
Uploaded Image: displayss.jpg
The display is set up on a table, near an exit frequently used by most of the engineers and visible from most of the shop.
Uploaded Image: displaycorner.jpg

Some things that I noted during informal discussions about the display:
  • Project coordinator is main user. He sets the data up, keeps it up to date, and uses it to assign tasks to people.
  • Engineers use display to keep track of their projects. Engineers can look at projects they are responsible for and see if they are at a stage where they can begin programming.
  • During slow periods, the display allowed the project manager to assign idle employees to work ahead on projects that are coming up. This let them be prepared for a big push in work. They were especially proud when they could deliver finished materials to the customer the moment they requested them (instead of just beginning work on them at that moment).
  • The display is seen as a key asset in keeping organized and efficient.
  • Interaction with the display is unwieldy. Setting the data is done through the display, the project managers runs a version on his local computer and uses that to edit data. Editing is slow, time consuming, and a main barrier to keeping the display up to date.
  • Disparity between stage of work and due date causes confusion sometimes. Projects approach the top of the display as their due date approaches. Sometimes urgency of a project is not necessarily related to the scheduled ship date. Interactions are too slow to set due dates for each phase, though this is a desired functionality.

Description of Client

The client is a medium to large sized industrial automation company. The company is set up as a job-shop, where the work, accounting, and tasks are set up according to individual jobs. A majority of these projects are industrial manufacturing jobs which automate much of the difficult, dangerous, and detailed work.
Uploaded Image: weldcell.jpg
They manufacture their own industrial touchscreens. Certain parts for the touchscreens are manufactured in the shop, while others are ordered from vendors. The touchscreens are assembled in-house. They try to keep 50-100 screens on hand at any time.
Uploaded Image: touchscreenarray.jpg
The software for the touchscreens is also produced in-house, and is used on the large display. The software is similar to standard industrial controls software, where one application constructs the GUI, while an application on the hardware displays the GUI. The software allows interfacing with industrial controllers, databases, and a few other devices.
In addition to the touchscreen, the company currently produces several smaller products that save manufacturing time for projects. Several more projects aimed at improving worker efficiency and expanding features available to the customer are in development.
There is very little management at the company, with only about three employees that could be considered as managing employees. The groups can be described as follows:
  • Managment: only a few members. Involvement with everyday tasks of the company varies according to management style.
  • Office: secretary, accounting, shipping and receiving. Work in offices at the front of the building, somewhat disconnected from the rest of the employees.
  • Engineering: mostly electrical engineers with a few computer scientists. A mechanical engineering group is also forming. This group can be considered project leads. The goal is that each engineer will be responsible for several projects and oversee them from inception to customer-signoff.
  • Electrical: a large group of employees responsible for installing industrial controls and handling most of the electrical work.

Evaluation of Current System

I will evaluate the current system according to the 5 aspects outlined in [Huang 2004].
  • Task Specificity and Integration
    • Tool serves a specific need, however there is very little to no integration with current work practices or the environment. Problems include:
      • display is set on a table in the corner.
      • updating information is awkward, slow, and barely connected with other work practices.
    • Possible improvements:
      • A desktop tools for accessing and modifying data
      • B acquire data automatically from database
      • C desktop tools to integrate into workflow
  • Tool Flexibility and Generality
    • The current tool can be considered rather rigid in that it is catered to one particular type of project.
    • Possible improvements:
      • D Allow variable stages and data fields
      • E Allow variances in the organization of information (group by manager, sort by date, sort by stage completion, etc...)
  • Visibility and Exposure to Others' Interaction
    • The placement of the device in a large semi-public space where many work allows interactions with the device to be quite visible. The current interface also encourages closer inspection of the display to gain information about a particular job, though the broad state of affairs can be ascertained from a distance.
    • Possible improvements:
      • F better placement of the device would help.
      • G ability to see users who are interaction with the device on their desktop
      • H ability to place and leave annotations
  • Low Barriers to Use
    • The only barrier currently is the complexity of the interface. Editing and viewing details involves pressing the correct buttons and being in the correct state. Interacting with the device also necessitates running the interface on the desktop (thus, dedicating the computer to the application while it is open), or going to the shop to interact with it directly.
    • Possible improvements:
      • I Improvements in the interface of the display.
      • J Desktop tools to view and interact with the information.
  • Dedicated Core Group of Users
    • There is currently a small core group of users who maintain the system. Adoption is assisted by managerial pushes to use the system and integrate it into the current workflow.

Of the above proposed improvements, the following groups can be extracted:
  • Tools - Desktop tools to allow interfacing the information without directly accessing the display. Though intuitively this would suggest less need for the display, this would widen the group of users that are familiar with the system. One of the barriers to use is unfamiliarity with the data, organization, and interface.
    • A, C, J
  • Data - Expanding the information input capabilities either through automation or added flexibility.
    • A, B, D, G, H
  • Display - Improvements in the design and interface of the display. These improve the actual device rather than other elements in the system.
    • E, F, G, H, I

Design Suggestions

  • Tools
    • Data manager: provide the ability to view and edit the data rapidly and easily.
    • Project Alarm: allow engineers to set projects and phases to watch.
    • Project Watcher: view projects moving through phases, give the ability to look further down the pipeline.
  • Data:
    • acquire data automatically from time sheets, po's, deliveries (no extra work to input data into system)
  • Display:
    • modify the display to be simpler and more specific in the tasks that it supports
    • remove textual input from screen, limit to navigation or state changes
    • visualize relative timeline

The addition of tools transitions the system into a larger information management system, of which the large display is only one portion. I hope that by providing a supporting system, the display will appeal to a larger audience and see more use.

"5 Factors" heuristics

The following are heuristics created from the above evaluation of the current system. These are founded in various other heuristics (normal, groupware heuristics, ambient displays heuristics), but are modified to emphasize issues with large displays:

Current Work

I'm working on prototypes and mockups (peripherally). Currently making a plan for having various hci experts employ heuristics to evaluate both the system and some of the prototypes.

Evaluation Results

The first phase of evaluation, where I used the 5 factors for adoption, suggested several areas for improvement (generalized, they are tools, data, and display).

The next phase of evaluations, where I have several HCI experts use various heuristics, I plan to identify which heuristics are applicable and useful to use in large displays. I also plan to try out a series of heuristics based off of the 5 factors and compare the results.


  • Churchill, E., Nelson, L., Denoue, L., Girgensohn, A. The Plasma Poster Network: Posting Multimedia Content in Public Places. Proc. INTERACT'03, 2003.
    • Collaborative large display at Parc
    • group = PHDs, academians and people w/ natural curiosity
    • "periphera" comfort information
    • aid socializing
    • web and email interaction
    • sign up for display (high cost of entry)
    • kitchen poster most interacted
  • Fass, A. Forlizzi, J., Pausch, R. MessyDesk and MessyBoard: Two Designs Inspired by the Goal of Improving Human Memory. Proc. DIS'02, 303-311, 2002.
    • shared desktop, shared board.
    • try to provide context, distributed cognition
    • great for scheduling
    • people wanted custom colors, pull stuff out of (copy/paste)
  • Greenberg, S. and Rounding, M. The Notification Collage: Posting Information to Public and Personal Displays. Proc. CHI 2001, 515-521, ACM Press, 2001.
    • Social group
    • most use when it could add/provide unavailable services (remote people)
    • web interface a plus
    • transparent overlay
    • webcam privacy issues (deployed at home)
    • group of academians
  • Grudin, J. Groupware and social dynamics: Eight challenges for developers. Communications of the ACM, 37, 1, 1994, 92-105.
    • work/benefit, critical mass, social disruption, exception handling, unobtrusive accessibility, difficulty of evaluation, failure of intuition, adoption process
    • email - good groupware? successful
      • (not software, not designed as GW, communication tool. Do we take email forgranted? What is it really? What does it allow?)
      • 8 challenges, not a formula
      • is there another way to express the 8 challenges (like the IM here)
      • groupware misleading. Don't want one big tool, want to add support for groupware activities
      • work = alone, then communication, then alone, etc... alone time = working. comunication = collaboration
  • Huang, E., Mynatt, E., Semi-Public Displays for Small Co-Located Groups. Proc. CHI2003, ACM Press, 2003.
    • personal & large group work - SPD in the middle.
    • is the mapping of spd in the design space a symptom of the lab it was deployed in? Is this the point of it though?
      • where does the ms project fit?
    • "not important" - technology not good enough either
    • looking at large displays for supporting awareness. new axis? purpose - task vs. awareness? control vs. peripheral
  • Huang, E. M., Russell, D. M., Sue, A. E. "IM Here: Public instant messaging on large, shared displays for workgroup interactions." Proc.CHI 2004. ACM Press. 2004.
    • 5 aspects
      • Task specificity: spend less time interacting, interaction needs to be more obvious and immediate. Purpose is specific.
      • Tool flexibility and genrality: tool is general, lets you do broad things with it.
      • Visibility and exposure to others' interactions: let people see that others are using it.
      • Low barriers to use: barriers so low, just walk up and use it. People don't use display enough.
      • Dedicated core group of users: advocates key to adoption
  • Huang, E., Tullio, J., Costa, T., McCarthy, J. Promoting Awareness of Work Activities Through Peripheral Displays. Proc. CHI 2002, ACM Press, 648-649. 2002.
    • People want outlet of communication, need to be aware.
    • don't regularly check webpage (wrong medium for the content? some kind of RSS NET or IM Awareness tool better?)
    • Awareness centric, grain of spd? can there be more? Limitation of defined design space?
  • Isaacs, E., Tang, J., Morris, T. Piazza: A Desktop Environment Supporting Impromptu and Planned Interactions. Proc. Mobile HCI 2002, 2002.
    • encounter - be aware of people "nearby"
      • nearby - people doing close to the same task
    • gallery - make a custom group and stay in contact
    • people browser - browse other people
    • glance - audio/video conference
    • project room - collab. work environment
    • Implemented most of it. Seemed successful
    • trying to get casual interactions, like walking by someone in the hallway.
  • Klemmer, S.R., M.W. Newman, R. Farrell, M. Bilezikjian, J.A. Landay, The Designers' Outpost: A Tangible Interface for Collaborative Web Site Design. Proc. UIST2001, 2001.
    • combo of vision and large display interaction
    • designed to help webpage designers
    • vision better than just touchscreen
    • large display useful for group work
  • Pedersen, E., McCall, K., Moran, T. and Halasz, F. Tivoli: An Electronic Whiteboard for Informal Workdroup Meetings. Proc. InterCHI'93, ACM Press, 1993.
    • Smartboard interactions
    • They get a smartboard, then use it as a whiteboard.
    • lots of tech discussion
    • meeting enhancer
  • Smith, I., Hudson, S. Techniques for Addressing Fundamental Privacy and Disrutpion Tradeoffs in Awareness Support Systems. Proc. CSCW 1996, ACM Press, 248-257, 1996.
    • presence visualizations
    • privacy - black out moving parts of webcams
    • "movie theatre" like display of people (images show multiple gatech profs.)
    • recency vis... shows "interesting" snapshots of area. (interesting if a certain amount of change occurred)
  • Snowdon, D.N. and Grasso, A., Diffusing Information in Organizational Settings: Learning from Experience. Proc. CHI 2002, ACM Press, 2002.
    • webbased system, Knowledge Pump
    • screen display, Community Wall
    • interacting with system (web page) too time consuming. Too much effort.
    • web page and display attracted different audiences
    • different placements of display attract different audiences and content
  • new papers about evaluation


  • pick heuristics
  • design heuristics ?
  • find hci-experts
  • evaluate system using various heuristics
  • report results

Last modified 1 November 2004 at 8:33 am by Jaroslav Tyman