To date, most empirical evidence on the effectiveness of multisensory feedback has been collected in the context of rather Spartan laboratory settings. The few attempts to introduce peripheral visual displays to the aviation domain were limited to the task of vehicle guidance and control. Examples of such displays are instrument landing aids (e.g., PVD) or peripheral attitude indicators (e.g., Malcolm horizon). To determine the ability of this form of feedback to support other tasks and functions such as attention capture, studies are currently under way in our laboratory to determine whether peripheral visual and vibro-tactile feedback are sufficiently salient and can be reliably detected amidst competing stimuli in an in formation- rich highly dynamic environment such as the modern flight deck. Potential costs and limitations (e.g., attentional narrowing in highly demanding situations) associated with these forms of feedback are being examined. Finally, we are exploring pilots' ability to not only detect that a transition occurred but to also identify its nature based on variations in the nature of feedback cues (e.g., location, duration).
The evolution of modern automation technology from reactive tools to highly independent and powerful agents brings with it the need for more effective human-machine communication and coordination. However, most advanced systems do not possess the communicative skills that are required to know when and how to share information with their human operators. To date, most efforts to address the resulting difficulties with human-automation coordination focus on the modification or addition of yet more visual displays or on new approaches to operator training to support the formation of mental models and thus system monitoring. Operational experience shows that difficulties continue to exist, and visions for future operations (e.g., highly flexible air traffic operations involving an increased number of human and machine agents) suggest that they may become even more frequent and severe. To prevent this from happening, new means of supporting communication and cooperation need to be explored. One possible approach -- the (re) introduction and context-sensitive orchestration of multisensory feedback -- was discussed in this paper as a promising candidate for moving towards more human-centered feedback design ( Billings, 1997) and the creation of truly collaborative human-machine teams where both human and machine partners play an active role in keeping each other informed about events and changes in their intentions and actions.
The preparation of this manuscript was supported, in part, by a research grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (96-G-043; Technical Monitors: Dr. Eleana Edens and Dr. Tom McCloy).
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