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Geometrica, the Technology and Methodology

Safety and why the steam gauges from the Industrial Age are bad for us.

From a safety point of view, locomotion in any form always have priority as a task. When we get distracted, we begin to have problems. Humans can cope with walking speeds, we evolved like this. Everything we can do to help us cope when going faster will enhance safety. Looking at instruments while walking is not needed, but a requirement when doing a number of other tasks, like Driving, Flying or controlling a Nuclear plant for instance. To read steam gauges (current generation Analog and Digital gauges) we have to focus on them. This process takes time, anything from 0.2 seconds to more than 2 seconds per instrument. This is time we can ill afford to not spend on the locomotion or primary task. This causes errors that lead to accidents.

Each year more than 40,000 people die and 1.7 million are injured on Europe _ s roads. The direct cost of this is 45 billion and indirectly up to four times that. Because some 90-95 per cent of accidents are caused by human error, HMI systems are viewed as part of the solution under the European Commission _ s integrated approach to improving road safety. This approach recommends that in-vehicle information systems should be designed to support the driver, and should not give rise to potentially hazardous behavior by the driver or other road users, or distract or visually entertain the driver. The allocation of driver attention to the system displays or controls must at all times remain compatible with the demands of the driving situation. Geometrica gives a proper solution to this problem.

Information overload defined

Lets talk a little about information overload, what it is and why it happens. Contrary to what the term suggests it is not necessarily too much information that is the problem, but not enough time. Why so you may ask? The answer is rather complex and begins with our senses, or more correctly with our sensors and the computer, our brain. Over a long period our senses and brain developed to support us mostly while walking or stationary and sometimes while running. Running was normally reserved for chasing down food or running from danger, defending yourself and your territory, and food and water resources. Lets concentrate on walking again. We are all familiar with this task.

While walking, our sensors gather diverse information from our balance organs in our inner ear, the hair on our skin sensing wind direction as our arms and face move through the air, the pressure under our feet sensing the terrain angle and texture, to our muscles sensing the weight transfer from one foot to the other. Other sensors like our eyes see the world around us. They extract tiny details we need for locomotion from peripheral vision and feed this to our brains. All of this happens untold number of times to keep us upright and moving and reaching our destination and our goals. As we speed up from a walking pace, the input from our sensors increase and our computer needs to process the information faster than when walking. The brain needs to allocate processing to various sensor inputs as the information arrives. Certain things have a higher priority than others, and this help to keep us alive. Here in lies the computing problem. Due to the faster arrival of input, one sensor demands more time to be processed, and other sensors get less time according to the priority schedule. This is where time gets involved. The more total information from our sensors, the more time required to process. Our brain does have reserve capacity to deal with emergencies and higher demands. This is a sort of overdrive, where time appears to slow down. This is due to the brain working much faster than normal to cope with extra ordinary circumstances, reserved for traumatic situations only.

In normal situations the brain will ignore certain data if it does not have enough time available to process that data. If we can reduce the amount of data per unit time, we can again cope and process all information. This also holds true if we can increase the amount of time available to process data. It is clear from this that time is an important factor in the processing of the data stream our brain receives. The more time available, the more processing we can do. The more we can reduce the time spent in getting data and assimilating it, the more time is available to comprehend the data. To the brain, time expenditure in one area detracts form time available in any other area. We need to optimize data gathering to allow data processing more time. There is only but a finite amount of processing available in our brain.

Considering the above explanation, how do we reduce the time needed to process information, and thus allow us to cope with doing more in less time? Alternatively, how do we move faster without compromising the primary task of locomotion while simultaneously doing the other modern world tasks without endangering other people or damaging our vehicles? Mostly we are able to drive while talking to a passenger without to many problems. Now add monitoring the vehicle functions, dialing or receiving a telephone call or navigating in a foreign place and we can see that this can easily lead to information overload. Our mind still receives all the standard sensory inputs, as explained above, while we are driving, but our eyes are now collecting data at a rate an order of magnitude faster than we were designed for. It is easy to understand that there is much less time to process other sensory inputs fully. Even tho we are focused on performing the primary task namely driving, we are still subject to information overload due to the fact that we are moving much faster than when walking. What about time to focus on and interpret and understand secondary task inputs? It is clear that we as humans have severe limitations in dealing with modern world speed and performance. We are adapting, finding new ways to deal with the situation and are coping, mostly.

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