User-Centred Methods for New Application Domains, New Users, New Interaction Media
by Dominique Scapin and Noëlle Carbonell
In order to face the challenges of a widespread usage of information technology, ergonomics and HCI research is needed. This is the scope of the MErLIn research group at INRIA.
Thanks to recent research advances, most hardware and software obstacles to the advent of a world wide information society are being overcome. However, unless universal software accessibility is achieved, this major social evolution may increase social exclusion. Appropriate ergonomic design guidelines, recommendations and standards are needed, particularly for meeting the requirements and expectations of users:
- in all standard user categories (eg, novices, occasional and expert users)
- in all contexts of use, especially new ones, such as home automation, online services for the general public (eg, e-commerce), mobile computing, etc
- providing users with special needs (eg, disabled and elderly citizens) with easy computer access.
These issues are at the centre of the research activities of the MErLIn project (INRIA, LORIA, University Paris V). MErLInís research is focused on the study of human-computer interaction, using a pluridisciplinary user-centred approach, and capitalising on the methods and techniques developed in cognitive ergonomics, artificial intelligence and user interface engineering. The main objective is to contribute to the optimisation of the ergonomic quality of interactive software.
On the one hand, the project aims at integrating ergonomic results into the software design process by designing user centred methods and support software for the ergonomic evaluation and design of interactive software. On the other hand, it aims at acquiring the ergonomic knowledge required for improving the utility and usability of novel computer applications, that is software relating to new application domains, promoting new contexts of use, and/or intended for new categories of users.
In the area of user centred design methods and support, research topics include:
- Adaptation of standard ergonomic criteria and definition of new criteria for Web applications; design of support tools for the assessment of the ergonomic quality of Web applications. Current studies concern both task performance and user preferences (EvalWeb and ErgoCOIN projects, respectively with LIHS and University of Santa Catarina; ESPRIT project UsabilityNet). In addition, 3D ergonomic guidelines are considered in the Eureka project COMEDIA.
- Integration of task models into the design process; in particular, modelling and predictive evaluation of cognitive workload (PREDIT project with SNCF and RATP, supported by the French Ministry of Transportation).
- Definition, implementation and ergonomic assessment of new contextual online help strategies for users of current software intended for the general public; the experimental evaluation of the prototype involves potential novice users (research project with IMASSA, supported by the French Ministry of Defence and the CNRS).
In the area of new multimodal interaction languages, ie, for new application domains, new users, and new interaction media, the research aim is to identify and tackle new ergonomic issues stemming from technological innovation, using specific ergonomic methods and techniques, such as observation, experimentation, user testing, evaluation of mock-ups and prototypes. Ongoing research projects include:
- The definition and evaluation of multimodal command languages which could prove adequate substitutes for direct manipulation in interaction contexts where the use of mouse and keyboard is awkward or impossible; the experimental evaluation of the defined languages, which combine speech and designation gestures on a touch screen, is focused both on their naturalness, usability, and their efficiency, that is the simplicity and reliability of their automatic inter-pretation (recent research project with IMASSA, supported by the French Ministry of Defence and the CNRS).
- The design, based on the expertise gained thanks to the previous project, of efficient and usable multimodal languages for interacting with virtual realities, especially for manipulating virtual 3D objects in the context of computer aided design applications, eg, for the design of ready-to-wear or the customisation of products on e-commerce Web sites (Eureka project COMEDIA).
- The design of adaptable user interfaces for ill-sighted and blind users (research project supported by the French MIRE and CNAV organisms).
- The study and participatory design of augmented reality laboratory notebooks (with Institut Pasteur), as well as the study of distant communities (ESPRIT project InterLiving, with LRI and University of Aarhus).
- The study of ergonomic issues related to the implementation of the universal accessibility principle and its application to the health sector (IST Thematic Network IS4ALL).
Dominique Scapin INRIA
Tel: +33 1 39 63 55 07
Noëlle Carbonell LORIA
Tel: +33 3 83 59 20 32