Heads-up displays can deliver critical information to first responders. For example, they can provide firefighters with information about oxygen tank levels, temperature, and waypoints, all at a glance. However, as data become increasingly available through these displays, they pose a significant challenge: How can interface designers ensure that first responders receive the right information, in the right format, and at the right time?

The IntelliVisor project will address this question by examining the effect of intelligent user interfaces on first responder performance in a fully immersive VR-based emergency response scenario. It is hypothesized that an intelligent user interface that adaptively presents first responders with information that is customized to their needs will offer significant potential for improving task performance.

The project will address two goals outlined in NIST’s Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program for User Interfaces:

  • Develop a VR-based emergency response scenario that will serve as a testbed for evaluating the impact of intelligent user interfaces on first responder performance. The first year of the project is dedicated to developing a rich VR-based incident scenario that features a coordinated multi-unit response to a subway fire and a data-driven heads-up display.  The project team is working closely with our Public Safety Organization (PSO) operational partners at the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the Fire Chiefs Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), and tri-jurisdictional first responder personnel to guide our human-centered design approach.
  • Conduct empirical evaluations to determine the effects of an intelligent user interface on first responders’ (1) task performance, (2) mental workload, (3) presence and (4) usability. The second year of the project aims to empirically examine the utility of the intelligent user interface on first responders’ task performance in the VR-based incident scenario. By providing first responders with critical information that is tailored to their situational contexts, it is hypothesized that intelligent user interfaces will enhance task performance, reduce mental workload, create a higher sense of presence within training scenarios, and achieve greater usability, compared to a conventional interface. To empirically test this hypothesis, 150 first responder personnel will complete a set of experimental studies using either an intelligent user interface or a conventional user interface. The studies will leverage the VR-based incident scenario developed in Year 1.

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