The primary objective of this project was to provide empirical evidence supporting design guidelines for automated electronic checklists for robotics operations. While planning to use the ISS robotic arm operations as their proxy for general arm or rover operations but they will develop scenarios that test a crew’s ability to operate more autonomously than in ISS operations.
This study had the following two specific aims:
Secondly, investigators used the HTA and OPM analyses to design the computer code that creates the simulated integrated control panel and procedure checklist system. In doing so, they created a new type of human-machine electronic procedure interface that integrates automation and system information into an electronic display. By integrating a functional electronic control panel, procedure, and checklist into their simulator, they created a system that presents information equivalent to two separate systems and laptops that are currently used on the ISS during robotic operations. This, in turn, reduces the required number of displays and equipment, an important feature for future space missions that will have strict mass and power constraints.
Following the development of the prototype automated electronic procedure system, investigators completed a human-in-the-loop experiment to investigate how the allocation of procedural step execution between the human operator and automation, or level of automation, would affect task performance, situation awareness, and mental workload. The key independent variable in the experiment was the level of automation used during task completion. The simulator was capable of allocating the automation to perform all or a subset of the procedural steps including state selection, identification verification, and confirmation. Three levels of automation were tested--Full Auto, Full Manual, and Auto Set/ Manual Verify. If the automation was tasked with doing all of the procedure steps, then the system is in Full Auto mode in which we expected low subject mental workload and high performance but also low situation awareness. In Full Manual mode, all steps were allocated to the human operator, and we expected high situation awareness but also high workload and possibly lower task performance. In the intermediate automation allocation, Auto Set/ Manual Verify, the automation was tasked with setting the states while the human operator verified the state change. In this intermediate automation level, investigators expected high task performance and situation awareness, and intermediate workload.
Results are largely consistent with the investigators' initial hypotheses, that Full Automation mode results in faster task completion times with practically no errors and low subject mental workload, measured objectively with a visual secondary task and subjectively using the NASA Task Load Index (NASA-TLX). The reduction in completion time comes primarily from the automatic selection of cameras and entry of arm parameters for Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) movement performed by the automation, rather than manually. The elimination of manual control tasks reduces the visual demands of the task and frees attentional resources for monitoring system state and task progress. This behavior was observed in the improvement of the operator’s ability to detect system events and states in the Full Manual condition. However, the use of automation also degraded the operator’s ability to comprehend of current system state and predict future states compared to Full Manual mode. The intermediate automation mode, Auto Set/Manual Verify, was generally preferred by the subjects as the best compromise to speed up task completion while maintain their situation awareness of the task and also resulted in the best overall performance across time, workload, and awareness.
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