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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs
CHALLENGES POSED BY HUMAN INTERACTIONS WITH AIR FORCE IS&T SYSTEMS
Scope of the Challenge
In the Air Force, there are many instances where one or more humans interact with one or more IS&T systems. These include systems that are distributed not only among different platforms but also perhaps across geographical and organizational boundaries, most often with strict security and service reliability constraints such as near-real-time or time-critical services. Added complexity comes about because both the humans and the systems might be interacting with one another in additional ways that are disconnected from the task being analyzed. New paradigms such as publish-subscribe architectures are being investigated to cope with some of the challenges. What sorts of information, architecture, and format should be used to achieve desired effects, and how can designers and users estimate the uncertainties and internalize context and caveats associated with each option? Assuming the right information is available at the right time and in the right form (e.g., as text or images), what techniques will enable the user to make the best use of it? How can what-if simulations be considered and evaluated? Such complex capabilities might require integrated and synchronized multimodal interfaces (visual, aural, and/or haptic) to capture the high dimensionality of a system of sensors and actuators in the battlefield.
Research into HSI should shed light on the usability of the (same) information in a battlefield command-and-control situation relative to the different perspectives (ranks) of the users and the different degrees of granularity (detail). In other words, one must understand and characterize the most likely and useful level of complexity for each potential user, from the warfighter to the commander, so that the complexity of the information can be tailored to provide an optimal amount of information for battlefield decision-making—not a paucity of data, but not data overload either. Visualization (interactive visualization in particular) is an important topic. Because this subject is receiving much attention as part of DARPA’s Command Post of the Future program, AFOSR should work to complement the DARPA investment.
The issue of how to ensure security pervades the topic of HSI—in particular because human behavior regarding security has a great influence on the effectiveness of embedded security protocols. User behavior can reinforce or undermine security systems, and we do not know enough about how the interface influences those behavioral choices. The most frequent cause of system failure is human error, and even under the best of circumstances (good training, no stress, well-designed interface system,