Research Project

EVAA (Expandable Variable Autonomy Architecture) Operator Interface Design

Motivation/Research Problem

NASA Armstrong developed an Expandable Variable Autonomy Architecture (EVAA) framework to support multi-level autonomous piloting systems. This hierarchical autonomous system framework depends on deterministic systems with higher authority to protect against catastrophic piloting faults, faulty mission planning or execution, and inappropriate flight activities. The EVAA provides the framework for analytical systems that can learn, predict, and adapt to both routine and emergency situations. It can also be designed to allow a lower-level certification for machine learning subsystems. The art and design team at ARCS is interested in exploring visual communication methods to explain the complex AI systems into salient real-time information a human can understand. These can be valuable in the testing, observation, and evaluation of the EVAA framework.  A novel approach at user experience and user interface design can have the potential to improve the overall success of the program.

Research Team

  • Mark Skoog: primary Armstrong contact, and directly involved in the work
  • Joe Bautista: relevant ARCS Co-Investigator
  • Kayla Mesina: relevant ARCS Fellow
  • Ashley Santiago: relevant ARCS Fellow
  • Andila Wijekulasuriya: incoming ARCS Associate for Fall 20
  • Erica Bettencourt: incoming ARCS Associate for Fall 20

Research Questions and Research Objectives

  • How do we demonstrate or visualize the flight test process when observing pre, during, and post-flight?
  • How do we anticipate what it’s doing and what should be communicated to controllers and reviewers?
  • How do we show a larger mission and its progress? How would operators want to decide what to do with those?
  • What explainable elements decrease/increase when it comes to autonomous systems or missions?
  • How do you communicate complex AI systems into salient information a human can understand in real-time when it comes to autonomous payload delivery?

Research Methods

Usability Testing Research 

  • Read through/ understand existing research results
  • Additional research to explain why existing designs are not effective
    • Colors, Fonts, spacing, User concerns and impediments

Design Process – Wireframe new Interfaces

  • Low-mid fidelity
  • High fidelity prototype of visual design

Testing 

  • Test functionality
  • feedback from operators

Research Deliverables

The anticipated deliverable is a user interface system developed for mobile devices that help communicate to operators of the mission status in an effective way. The intent is to present and develop a paper on this project at a future conference in both Science/Technology and User Experience Design disciplines.

Research Timeline

April – August 2020  — 

  • PHASE 1 -3: Replicate Existing UI, Make improvements to ADD & VMD Displays
    • Read through/ understand existing research results
    • Additional research to explain why existing designs are not effective
    • Design Process – Wireframes
    • Begin recruiting/training/shadowing for next Fellow (possibly Ashley)
    • Conduct User Testing to test functionality

August – October 2020 —

  • PHASE 4: Dashboard and Navigation
    • Read through/ understand existing research results
    • Additional research to explain why existing designs are not effective
    • Design Process – Wireframes
    • Conduct User Testing to test functionality

October 2020 – March 2021  — 

  • PHASE 5 – 7: Using AR, Future Research Display Improvements
    • Read through/ understand existing research results
    • Additional research to explain why existing designs are not effective
    • Design Process – Wireframes
    • Conduct User Testing to test functionality

Research Impact

After meeting with and learning more from NASA/JPL scientists, there is a major role for our team in how humans interact with autonomous systems. From areas such as data visualization, user interface, and user experience – human operators still play a role in autonomous systems and planning. With the commercial growth of Increasingly Autonomous (IA) technology, understanding and explaining artificial intelligence to human users/operators is a communication problem that user experience designers need to engage in more. If society continues to use and demand IA systems and technology corporations continue to develop them, the creative processes in communication and user experience design are extremely relevant in explaining the use, need and societal impact of artificial intelligence.