Application of avatars in display design to support spatial awareness under varying workload conditions
McCauley, Michael E.
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Human performance in spatial orientation tasks is mainly determined by spatial awareness and the skills to transition from the current spatial attitude into the desired spatial orientation and position. Erroneous spatial awareness may lead to degraded task performance, to the loss of equipment, to serious injuries, or fatal aviation mishaps. The use of UAVs is considered beneficial due to the reduction in risk to the human carrying out the "mission". However, the remote execution of such a mission is extremely demanding for the operator. If extensive use of UAVs is to become routine, a number of concerns that may influence their effective use needs to be addressed. When we consider the human-in-the-loop (HITL), then vehicle control and the use of autonomy are important issues for the end user. Therefore this thesis will investigate the use of a virtual avatar in the flight simulator software (Weber Box) and conduct experimental proof of concept (conduct of experiments and analysis, evaluation and validation of the data of the concept using actual flight simulation software). Results of a study (conducted by Weber, 2006) indicated that the proposed design (Weber Box) seemed to strongly support spatial awareness in 3D orientation tasks. Time to assess a spatial situation decreases significantly, whereas accuracy of this spatial judgment at least maintains its level. This study investigated human orientation performance in relation to display designs that support mental models of the user's spatial situation under varying workload conditions. The main goal is to support the pilot/operator with intuitive, 3D-based information which improves their spatial awareness and supports their mental model of spatial position, he/she is operating under, even with varying workload conditions. As a follow-up study has to be identified, determining whether varying workload affects performance between the two display designs, and if there is a significant difference to a set of properties which are essential for linking virtual avatars and spatial awareness.
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