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:

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:

Evaluation of Current System

I will evaluate the current system according to the 5 aspects outlined in [Huang 2004].

Of the above proposed improvements, the following groups can be extracted:

Design Suggestions

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.