Techniques for Managing Stale Mission Information through Card-Based Interfaces

von Kelsch, E., Kane, S., and Muller, C.

Presented at the 8th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2017), Los Angeles, CA (July 2017)

Powerful tools exist to support mission planning with complex decision making demands. However, these tools are unable to update missions with updated data or provide support for data that is out of date. Because of this, missions must be updated manually with recommendations from official sources (e.g., sensor and radar settings). Further exacerbating this challenge, the presentation of mission data does not provide any indication of age. This also places the onus on users to recognize and correct outdated information. To address these challenges, methods are needed that (1) reveal stale information so the operator can take appropriate action to update it; and (2) allow awareness of time-sensitivity and expiration of data.

In this paper, we describe the design of visual methods addressing these needs within a card-based user interface (UI) mission planning workspace (Kane et. al, 2016). We describe our approach to draw upon physical metaphors and extensions to indicate and emphasize information staleness. For example, properties of physical cards can indicate age or wear and tear. These properties become implicit cues to the user to verify if the information is still valid. We also implement explicit methods to communicate information staleness (e.g., expiration dates) to indicate timespans the information is valid. Introducing implicit and explicit cues into the realm of digital card UIs will enable effective monitoring of card status and maintenance. We present a range of visual methods to encode staleness status on individual card elements. For example, incorporating icons onto titles of cards name can provide high level indications that multiple elements within a mission card are outdated. We also describe methods to highlight individual data fields within cards to cue operators that more specific values are stale. We discuss employing visual effects to the cards themselves, such as manipulating border texture and thickness, background color, or spatial location to convey stale information to users.

We describe our overall iterative approach enabling mission planners to recognize data staleness in the context of mission planning. We describe our analysis efforts to define a set of use cases, identify critical elements is needed in the current mission creation process, and potential support opportunities for automated tools. We describe extensions to traditional card UI metaphors supporting these requirements to convey this status. Finally, we describe preliminary informal evaluations assessing the usability and usefulness of these card UI strategies in managing information staleness. We anticipate these methods will reduce error and improve efficiency in mission planning.

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