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Simluation, stress, and visualization research in Georgia

Rob Mahan
Athens, Georgia

For the last several months we have been busy building an internet-based AWACS simulator for the Air Force. This has been a very labor intensive process because we decided to build it from the ground up. Our goal is to create a platform independent system, yet be able to offer a degree of fidelity that is found in large-scale device-based training environments. Selecting JAVA as our programming language has proven to be both good and not so good. Many of the programming features we need in order to implement a variety of high fidelity components of the sim have yet to be developed. Our AWACS interface includes A/V channels, Virtual Reality 3d visualization and other components not found in simulations of this type. We have been using special beta code from Sun Microsystems to test some of these concepts and are making progress. Nick named SynTEAM by the Air Force (synthetic team effectiveness assessment and modeling), the sim focuses on examining and eventually training AWACS teams in a cost effective manner (at least in theory). Of course, our vision of a performance measurement system includes a heavy dose of Brunswikian philosophy and concepts, and we have made more than a few Air Force types anxious for insisting that we have a way to this [e.g., embedding hierarchical lens model features into the simulation]. We are also kicking off a grant next month to begin building and integrating an intelligent coaching system into the simulation as well.

On our much-neglected empirical side, we continue to persevere examining the effects of stress (e.g., fatigue, sleep deprivation) on judgment performance. We are writing up a paper on the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue on team hierarchical judgment. We find that during 24 hours of sleep loss, both cognitive control AND matching deteriorate. However, the strategic changes that occur in the teams are particularly interesting, and these are related to voluntary shifts in cognitive mode. This paper will be submitted to the journal Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine in the next month or so for a stress issue we are editing.

Related to our stress and judgment work, we are examining the efficacy of visualization (representation) techniques that can drive an operator to a particular cognitive mode. We have finished two papers now that show, in part, that the characteristics of the display can force an individual to process in a particular ways (Intern. Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics in October; the other submitted). While display induced changes in processing is nothing new, using the Cognitive Continuum Theory as a way to understand these changes is (to the best of our knowledge). We have been using the Cognitive Continuum as the framework to predict and explain these shifts in cognition, and how one can leverage display dynamics to achieve specific (efficient) modes of cognition. Our interest in this area emerged out of some of our stress work that showed people begin to drift on the continuum when fatigued. Our goal here, of course, is to create ways (information packaging protocols) that might serve as countermeasures against the effects of fatigue and sleep deprivation.

Contact Rob Mahan

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