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Poster abstract for the Tabletop 2007 workshop, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, October 2007 Designing Tabletop Interfaces for Asymmetric Distributed Collaboration Mark Ashdown1, Stacey D. Scott1,2 1 Humans and Automation Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA,USA 2 Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Abstract They must remain aware of the state of all relevant personnel and resources, and consider information Complex task domains such as emergency response from many sources. and command and control often involve collaboration These different task activities and environmental between operational personnel in the field and tactical constraints lead to different technological requirements personnel in a central command centre responsible for for any support systems developed for these tasks. coordinating the efforts of those operational Operational personnel, who tend to be mobile and personnel. The asymmetry in their respective work can experience physically demanding situations, would environments, job responsibilities, available need an extremely portable and robust device, such as a information, and situation constraints produce small handheld computer. In contrast, tactical distinctly different technological requirements for personnel have few such environmental constraints, potential support systems for these different personnel. and thus can exploit stationary, large display systems. This research focuses on the use of a tabletop display Large displays, such tabletop displays, provide benefits to support the planning and coordination duties of the for productivity  and spatial awareness . tactical personnel. A primary goal is to address the Additionally, a tabletop system could display the maps, inherent challenges of designing large-screen tabletop schedules, documents, and other information necessary interfaces that support synchronous interaction, data to support the tactical role. Advances in networking sharing, and coordination with remote collaborators will enable data sharing between the devices used by who have significantly diminished technological the operational and tactical personnel, in addition to capabilities, particularly in terms of available display standard voice communication (Figure 1). size. tactical tabletop 1. Asymmetric Distributed Collaboration display Various domains, including emergency response and command and control, involve coordinating a command centre distributed team of people from a command centre. field Operational personnel are those people situated in the operational field, responsible for performing the physical work handheld such as gathering information or material items, or displays providing services. Tactical personnel are those people Figure 1. Asymmetric distributed collaboration. in a command centre coordinating the actions of We are designing interfaces for linked tabletop and multiple operational personnel. The difference between handheld devices, to support real-time collaboration in these roles leads to several forms of asymmetry. a shared visual space. We will study how people Operational personnel execute physical tasks (often collaborate in a test scenario to characterize the while traversing the field setting), have detailed techniques they use and to inform design knowledge of the immediate situation around them, and recommendations. In particular, we are interested in receive information about new tasks from the tactical how the collaborators deal with the asymmetry in level. In contrast, tactical personnel perform the higher- hardware and roles, which communication strategies level functions of planning for future tasks, and they use to deal with the mismatch of information coordinating the various operational personnel to visibility, and how activity awareness between ensure that the team satisfies the overall mission goals. collaborators should be supported. 2. Design Challenges scenario. Figure 2 shows an extract of this diagram for the tactical coordinator’s scheduling work. The Many existing design approaches for supporting diamonds indicate decisions and the boxes indicate distributed collaboration assume fairly symmetric processes. Thick-edged boxes indicate that situations between participants in their work collaboration with a search unit is required to complete environments, technological capabilities, and their the process. roles and responsibilities during collaboration. In monitor units asymmetric collaboration, however, people tend to have complementary job roles with different technological requirements. Research indicates that search unit N indicated timing search units fulfilling Y external report N or structure status victim found? N such role asymmetry and platform heterogeneity can change? Y schedule? N change? Y Y negatively impact remote collaboration ; thus, obtain timing obtain victim careful design is required for our envisioned system of change info. schedule change N report necessary? networked tabletop and handheld computers. Providing Y modify rescue a shared visual space between distributed collaborators modify search schedule facilitates communication by supporting conversational schedule grounding. However, a vast difference in display size Schedule inform units of provides an obvious challenge to offering standard new schedule shared visual solutions, such as a WYSIWIS (What- Figure 2. Event flow for the tactical actor. You-See-Is-What-I-See) interface design. Thus, new visibility techniques may be required to support The CTA results in a set of information and workspace awareness . functional requirements, but leaves considerable scope To develop technologies that address these issues, for the specific design of the interface. Since the large we are developing an experimental platform involving horizontal surface and direct input of a tabletop display a representative asymmetric distributed collaboration make it qualitatively different from conventional task scenario: urban search and rescue (USAR). interfaces, new interaction techniques may be required, especially for supporting synchronous collaboration 3. Urban Search and Rescue Scenario with maps and schedules. Our USAR scenario involves two types of 5. Conclusion distributed collaborators: search units (operational personnel) and a tactical coordinator. The search units Our poster will present initial CTA results, focusing navigate around a city, searching buildings and on the design requirements for the tabletop display. We reporting victims found and unexpected events. They hope to gain feedback from the community on the will have handheld displays with which to view maps implications of these requirements for the design of the and task schedules, and they may speak to the subsequent tabletop interface, and to discuss more command centre via a voice channel. The tactical general issues regarding using a digital tabletop to coordinator is situated in the command centre. This support asymmetric distributed collaboration. person monitors and coordinates the search units, in 6. References addition to other units that comprise the team. The tactical coordinator will have a tabletop display to  M. Czerwinski, et al., “Toward Characterizing the support the coordination of the team’s spatial activities Productivity Benefits of Very Large Displays”, Proc. IFIP (with maps) and their temporal constraints and progress Interact 2003, pp. 9–16. (with schedules and timelines).  C. Gutwin, S. Greenberg, “A Descriptive Framework of Workspace Awareness for Real-time Groupware”. Computer 4. Designing a Tactical Tabletop Display Supported Cooperative Work, 11:3–4, 2002, pp. 411–445.  C.E. Nehme, et al., “Generating Requirements for To identify the display requirements for the Futuristic Heterogeneous Unmanned Systems”, Proc. HFES operational and tactical support systems, a cognitive 2006.  D.S. Tan, et al., “Physically Large Displays Improve Path task analysis (CTA) specifically designed for futuristic Integration in 3D Virtual Navigation Tasks”, Proc. CHI task scenarios , was conducted. A key part of this 2004, pp. 439–446. CTA process is the creation of an event flow diagram  M. Velez, et al., “Who's in Charge Here? that represents the temporal constraints between the Communicating Across Unequal Computer Platforms”, decisions and processes that may occur during the task ACM Trans. CHI, 11:4, pp. 407–444.
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