STUDY METHODOLOGY AND OBJECTIVES

This and other JTEC studies are formulated initially by the sponsoring agencies. The sponsors of this study are the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)(Endnote 1) the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and the Department of Commerce (DOC). Sponsors and the study chair identify potential panel members and refine the study goals. After the panel is formed, panelists meet with the sponsors to discuss goals, enumerate the questions to be asked, and identify potential research labs to visit. A JTEC representative in Japan arranges visits and the itinerary.

The following individuals participated in the HCI panel's site visits in Japan:

Panelists

James D. Foley, Georgia Institute of Technology (Panel Chair)
Ephraim P. Glinert, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
James D. Hollan, University of New Mexico
Robert E. Kraut, Carnegie Mellon University
Thomas B. Sheridan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tim Skelly, Microsoft Corporation

Other Team Members

Susan Chipman, Office of Naval Research (sponsor representative)
Michael J. DeHaemer, Loyola College, JTEC/WTEC Director
Gene Gregory, Consultant, InterMan Japan

Scope

The following list indicates the multiple foci of the study, along with the names of the panel members with primary responsibility for the respective areas:

The following more precisely defines the focus of each of the areas of interest. Each of these topics is addressed in a chapter in this report.

Research infrastructure, HCI education, and human resources (James Foley, Chapter 1)

Beyond the actual research projects and their status, the infrastructure and milieu surrounding the research shape attitudes, perceptions, and directions. Hence, the JTEC panel is interested in how research is funded; the research-reward structure; the interactions between universities, companies, and government; and technology transfer mechanisms. The educational pipeline that produces HCI researchers is of relevance, as is the general application of HCI principles by industry as new products and user interfaces are developed.

Fundamental HCI research (James Hollan, Chapter 2)

Improvements in human-computer interaction have resulted from research on new hardware and software technologies as well as new ways of thinking about interactions between people and computers and about interactions between people that are mediated by computers. As computers become ubiquitous and play an increasing role in our lives, the importance of human-computer interaction research is highlighted. The development of novel kinds of work materials, electronic communities, and new computationally-based media has begun. Still, most current user interfaces employ computation primarily to mimic mechanisms of older media. While there are important cognitive, cultural, and engineering reasons to exploit earlier successful representations, imitating the mechanisms of an old medium strains and underutilizes the new. Fundamental research is required to effectively exploit computation and ensure that it plays a productive role in our lives. The JTEC panel's goal was to summarize research across the broad range of areas involved in human-computer interaction, as well as to highlight issues that would most benefit from increased research activity.

Telecommunications and networking (Robert Kraut, Chapter 3)

Computing and telecommunications are rapidly converging. Electronic mail, groupware, teleconferencing, and more recently, the World Wide Web, are changing how groups operate in business and education. But the manners in which groups use these applications and the impact of these applications are still open issues. User interfaces for multi-user applications are still primitive, with few established design principles. Methods for designing and introducing multi-user applications are different from those for single- applications ones. In this area, the JTEC team was interested in identifying innovative multi-user applications and interfaces, learning how these applications are being used in Japanese workplaces, and understanding the ways that language, attitudes towards groups, and other national differences might influence the value and design of these applications.

At the consumer level, the potential mass deployment of interactive, on-line services, including communication, information, and entertainment services, raises human factors issues of usability and social impact. It will be a human factors challenge to make the variety and complexity of a national information infrastructure available to the very wide range of consumers who will need to access it. And if a national information infrastructure becomes widely available, understanding its impact on the lives of average citizens will be a priority for both business and policy planning. In this area, the JTEC HCI panel was interested in learning motivations for and barriers to using on-line services and about efforts to understand their social impact.

Consumer devices, games, and entertainment (Tim Skelly, Chapter 4)

Computers have become ubiquitous features in the landscape of everyday objects. Mostly, they are hidden from the people who use them, embedded in other machines, as in the case of automobiles. These computers provide service without any extraordinary or even visible interface with the user. However, as power and flexibility become cheaper, the options for control offered by even the most trivial consumer device can quickly overwhelm the users and designers of these products. This, and the possibilities for interconnection between devices, create a situation where the ordinary consumer is placed in the position of becoming, at least part-time, a programmer/technician. This has become a regular, unpleasant surprise for most people buying electronic goods. Consumers rightfully expect the tools and entertainment equipment they purchase to ease their lives, not make them more complex. The success of the consumer electronics industry is based on shortening the distance between users and their desires. The JTEC HCI panel's goal was to determine what strategies, novel and conventional, technical and psychological, are being developed to shorten that immeasurable distance.

Access to computers for people with disabilities (Ephraim Glinert, Chapter 5)

Disabilities can be of many different kinds, some physical, others cognitive. People with physical disabilities may be affected in just a single sensory modality, or in multiple modalities. Disabilities can be congenital, the sudden result of an accident, or an evolutionary consequence of disease or unavoidable processes such as aging. If we live long enough, almost all of us will either experience a disability of some kind ourselves or watch friends or family members become affected. Advances in computer technology, and especially interface technology, can be both a blessing and a curse in this regard. On the positive side, the flexibility and power of software, coupled with the almost endless variety of I/O devices designed for computers, should be able to open the door to rich and productive lives for people with many kinds of disabilities. On the negative side, the explosive growth in use of multimedia technology, for example, threatens to relegate large groups of people (such as those with hearing impairments), who were previously able to fully utilize computers, to the ranks of second class citizens. The challenge, then, is to design and build systems that afford access, where required, to the same tools everybody else is using, especially in the workplace, while providing facilities, where possible, to accommodate special needs. During its trip to Japan, the JTEC panel sought to learn about the current status of people with disabilities in general and in the workplace in particular, about current access-related projects and products available to this community for a variety of application domains, and about plans to deal with these issues more effectively in the future.

Human-computer interaction in manufacturing, process control, telerobotics, and transportation (Thomas Sheridan, Chapter 6)

Unlike human-computer interaction in business and many other applications where the human can take a work break at his or her own discretion, in applications such as manufacturing, process industries, telerobotics, and transportation, there is a dynamic system that is ongoing and cannot arbitrarily be stopped to take a break. All such systems are becoming more automated, and the human operator is being relegated to the role of programmer, on-line monitor and supervisor, and after-the-fact, off-line evaluator. This change in the human role makes large changes in the human-computer relationship, requiring much more of artificial sensors, actuators, and the computer, reducing the sensory-motor load on the operator, and also increasing the cognitive demands on the operator. In this area, the JTEC panel looked for such changes in human operator tasks and new technical approaches to handling these changes in a safe and efficient manner.

Site Visits

The panel visited twenty-two visits in Japan. In some cases, the entire panel visited a company, while in other cases, the panel divided into separate groups of 1 to 5 persons. Site reports for each lab are included as Appendix C to this report. The following list indicates the sites visited and the team member with primary responsibility for writing the site report:

ATR International (Foley)
Canon Research, Corporate Welfare Division, Tokyo (Glinert)
Central Research Institute of Electric Power -- CRIEPI (Kraut and Sheridan)
Digital Vision Labs (Skelly)
East Japan Rail (Sheridan)
Electro-Technical Lab (Sheridan)
Fujitsu Personal Systems Lab, Akashi (Skelly)
Graphics Communications Lab, Tokyo (Skelly)
Hitachi Research, Hitachi City (Foley)
IBM Human Factors Lab (Chipman/DeHaemer)
Matsushita (Sheridan)
Mitsubishi Electric Computer and Information Systems Labs (Foley)
National Center for Science Information Systems -- NCSIS (Glinert)
NEC C&C Research Labs, Kawasaki (Glinert)
NTT Advanced Technology Corp., Human Interface Testing Center, Yokohama (Hollan)
NTT Human Interface Labs, Kanagawa (Kraut)
OMRON, Kyoto (Hollan)
PNGS - Association for Promotion of New Generation Services, Kyoto (Kraut)
Sony Computer Science Lab, Tokyo (Skelly)
Tokyo Institute of Technology/LIFE (Foley)
Toshiba (Sheridan)
TRON Project, University of Tokyo (Hollan)

The JTEC panel members presented a briefing on their visit and conclusions in Washington, D.C., on July 7, 1995. The discussions and feedback from that full-day session have been helpful in refining this final report.


Published: March 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian