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Purdue University

West Lafayette, Indiana

From power plant operations to transportation systems to health care delivery, many technology developments have been implemented without taking into account how real-world constraints would limit their effectiveness. Set Phasers on Stun, The Atomic Chef, and other books and articles have highlighted the dangers of poorly considered, designed, or implemented technologies that ultimately impair, rather than enhance, human performance. An increasingly visible and vocal new generation of cognitive engineers is addressing these issues. Cognitive engineering, as described by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, is focused on improving systems design and training to support human cognitive and decision-making skills, particularly in applied, naturalistic settings. Thus cognitive engineering is not about designing better brains but about designing technologies that create working situations that allow people to use their brains more effectively. The presenters at the U.S. Frontiers of Engineering session on cognitive engineering emphasized improvements in systems engineering that can enhance human performance and reduce catastrophic errors in specific application domains.

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