Research investigates human interaction with machines

New collaboration systems developed

A research project aimed at improving human interactivity with machines was unveiled at the ICT Outlook Forum in Melbourne yesterday.

The joint research project is being undertaken by the National ICT Australia (NICTA), the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO) and the CSIRO.

Research director for the initiative, DSTO's Dr Rudi Vernik said it aims to augment the ability of humans to interact with information, with each other, and with their environments through the effective application of technology.

Dubbed Braccetto, an Italian word meaning 'arm in arm', this project will form the foundation for all future research efforts.

Braccetto is investigating how the effective application of ICT in mixed presence groupware can help geographically distributed teams collaborate more effectively.

This team has been working with a Perth-based company, Jumbo Vision, to develop collaborative workspaces. This has led to the design and creation of a modular collaboration system that uses high-definition liquid crystal display (LCD) screens to improve interaction.

The screens can be arranged in various combinations and orientations to provide a flexible and adaptive system that supports creative teamwork.

Prototypes of the collaborative workspaces are now operational across three sites in Adelaide and Sydney and form part of Braccetto TeamNets, a suite of hardware, software and knowledge systems that can be deployed into a range of distributed collaboration systems.

The Braccetto TeamNets architecture can be tailored to teams' requirements using computer-controlled motors to orient and reposition the screens and through the addition of interactive devices such as lighting and cameras. The whole system can be packed into cases for rapid transportation to other locations.

As part of the Braccetto project, researchers are looking at principles underlying effective, intense, remote collaboration. The results of this investigation may provide new ways of supporting distributed teams involved in creative activities such as collaborative design, planning, analysis and decision making.

Dr Vernik says that groups that regularly engage in these kinds of collaborative and creative activities will benefit from the research including military planners, scientific researchers and creative design teams.

"The research focuses on assisting organizations to effectively deal with emerging phenomena such as global networks, workforce virtualization and data overload by giving information workers new tools and processes to perform better in these new environments," Dr Vernik said.

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