Study Overview and FAQs

Study Overview

First responders are seeing a significant increase in the amount and types of data available to them while responding to emergencies. To maximize the value of these data sources, user interfaces need to be designed to allow first responders to interact effectively with the data and respond in an effective and timely manner, without inducing undue errors or additional mental workload. This study is designed to address this need and help shed light on how heads-up displays (HUDs) should be designed to support the goals of first responders. We are particularly interested in exploring how information should be presented to first responders in order to improve task performance, reduce mental workload, and improve interface usability.

This project initially targeted virtual reality as a way to let people experience different elements of HUDs in a virtual scenario.  However, due to COVID-19 safety concerns, our project team has shifted our current efforts to collecting all information from participants remotely using a version of the scenario developed to run in web browsers.

Frequently Asked Questions


What kinds of topics will be explored / questions will be asked during the study? What is the format for the study? How much time will someone likely spend completing the study?

The current study is completely web-based, so participants will be able to complete it at home on their desktop or laptop. This study has participants step into the shoes of a firefighter responding to a subway emergency call. The virtual scenarios require participants to complete a series of tasks as they search for a disabled rail car.  During the scenario, some participants will have access to a virtual HUD that will provide task support such as navigational information whereas others may not. Our team has developed tutorials to get participants accustomed to the scenarios, which function similarly to a computer game. After a brief tutorial, a training scenario, and two “test” scenarios, all participants will complete a survey asking about their experiences, from how engaging the experience was to which elements were helpful or what you think would help even more. In total, we expect this study to take 60 minutes to complete.

Who should participate in the web study?  Why should they feel motivated to contribute? How much prior knowledge of the subject should they have?

Our study is open to anyone 18 years of age or older who has current or previous first hand experience working as a firefighter or working with the firefighting community as a first responder. The outcomes of this study will provide foundational information on how to design HUDs to make them more usable and accessible to firefighters as they respond to emergencies.

What will the results inform? (For this project and the larger research community.)

The results from this study will inform best-practices around the design of HUDs so that first responders can get the information they need in ways that are helpful to their goals.  By using virtual environments as a testbed, we can investigate what works and doesn’t work prior to investment in real-world designs.

When is the deadline for participation?

We will be actively collecting data until May of 2021. The results will be available shortly thereafter.

What are the requirements to participate

  • Have current or previous experience working as a firefighter or working with firefighter community
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Not be a student at North Carolina State University
  • Be able to comfortably complete web-based tasks for at least 90 minutes
  • Have a laptop or computer at home is capable of running Web-GL applications
  • Test your PC or laptop to ensure compatibility here:

Study Overview Video:



Please contact Dr. Randall Spain

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