UX researchers Taufik Sitompul and Markus Wallmyr have been studying how operators interact with machines now and how we can develop better systems for tomorrow.
Ergonomics is the applied science concerned with designing and arranging things so that the people and things interact in the most efficient and safe manner possible. In industrial machines this is most often applied to cabin design and improvements. Improvements often come with new technology or the use of new materials.
However observing operators in the field can prove inordinately challenging when they work in remote or restricted access locations or carry their work out in small cabins that are ill-equipped to carry multiple occupants comfortably. This can make studying how operators interact with a machine almost impossible, making it more difficult to make simple and efficient improvements with existing technology and materials.
CrossControl researcher Taufik Sitompul has been working on a novel approach to operator observation studies and it has proven to be surprisingly effective leading to some new data and novel research methodologies.
Taufik’s latest paper presents this complimentary observation method in a presentation titled Online Video Study. The paper looks at the feasibility of using readily accessible videos from publicly hosted platforms such as YouTube in conducting field studies of remote locations. As a test, the study specifically investigates how operators of forest harvesters work in their natural settings. The online video study was started by collecting suitable videos on YouTube using certain criteria. The researchers found 26 videos that met their criteria, which also provide diverse samples of forest harvesters, operators, and working situations. The team used five prior field studies, which investigated forest harvester related issues, to evaluate the feasibility of their approach and to provide a set of control metrics.
The paper not only contributes to the understanding of how operators of forest harvesters work in natural settings, but also the feasibility of conducting online video study. The proposed approach makes it easier to observe research subjects located in remote locations. Since operators remain a crucial part in the productivity of forest harvesters, it is important to actually understand how operators work and record how they interact with forest harvesters in natural settings. Therefore, conducting field studies is a necessity. Modern industrial machines perform a litany of background tasks designed to assist in productivity and efficiency of various operations. The latest forest harvesters are capable of performing task automation, felling, delimbing, cut-to length (based on assigned parameters) colour marking and stump removal while simultaneously running diagnostics for machine health and maintenance, ordering parameters and stock inventory, as well as logging the day’s workload and progress.
For example an academic study shows that the cognitive workload in operating a forest harvester is comparably similar to operating a fighter plane. (Burman, L., Löfgren, B.: Human-machine interaction improvements of forest machines. In: Forest Engineering Conference).
As we are living in an era where everyone can easily produce data and share them with others via the internet. The availability of user-generated data on the internet provides new opportunities for research. The results of this initial test study provided a litany of new data points, including information on driver behavior of both seasoned and novice practitioners. The research all goes into helping to improve future HMI solutions and implement ergonomic changes for improving operators’ working conditions.
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