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Communication in Crisis Situations using Icon Language
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by S. Fitrianie and L.J.M. Rothkrantz 21 the future of Robotics

To reduce the ambiguity and the different semantic interpretations of human observersí reports, we propose a new paradigm in collaborating information using icons to represent concepts or ideas. Two prototypes of icon-based communication interfaces were developed with which users can create iconic messages to report situations where a crisis event occurs. The interfaces interpret and convert the messages to human natural language. A context-aware collaborative information system filters irrelevant and infidelity reports and shares the results for further decision making.

1. Introduction
The terrorist strikes against U.S. targets on September 11, 2001 disabled the crisis management service that provides information support services for rescue teams (i.e. the fire-fighters, ambulance services, polices, the military, and other crisis management organizations), victims, witnesses and families. In crisis events, such as natural disasters, technology failures, aviation accidents, and acts of terrorism, a global infrastructure breakdown is inevitable. In such situations personal devices, such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), may be available for communicating to others due to their portability and facility for wireless connection. However, a PDA provides limited options of user interactions, i.e. with a pointing device on its display, some physical buttons and (for some PDAs) a small-sized keyboard. Although researches have been done on adding multimodal capabilities, the current technology still makes speech input less suitable for mobility. Therefore, we aimed at a natural interaction style based on a graphical user interface.

Reports from all parties involved in a crisis event, are essential to have a clear description of a situation for effective problem solving and preventing further damages. However, human-observer reports tend to be subjective, ambiguous, incomplete and language dependent. Moreover, the human observers are also usually remote in time and place. By limiting the world model of the observers using the same ontology, we can reduce the subjective aspect of reports. Therefore, observers can focus to report only a relevant description of situations that relates to the crisis event. To encounter a short term memory lost, human observers should be able to report the situation as direct as possible. By collaborating all received information, these reports can be filtered to have unambiguous and complete information. Finally, to avoid creating language problems, we should select a representation that offers a potential across language barriers. Icons and other concepts from semiotics are selected for this type of representations.

Human communication involves the use of concepts. Concepts represent internal models of the humans themselves, the outside world and of things with which they are interacting. We investigated icons to represent concepts or ideas. An icon is understood as a representation of a concept, i.e. object, action, or relation. By virtue of a resemblance between an icon and the object or the movement it stands for, the icon functions as communication means. Thereby, it offers a direct method of conversion to other modalities. This paper describes two developed iconic interfaces on PDAs for crisis management. The use of icons to represent concepts or ideas makes user interaction on both interfaces particularly suitable for a fast interaction in language-independent contexts.


7. Conclusion
Two experimental icon-based communication interfaces have been developed. The first prototype is an interface for creating and sending an observation report using icon strings. The second prototype is an iconic interface for describing situations on a map, where a crisis event occurs. Both interfaces limit the world model of observers by providing only icons that are relevant for crisis situations. However, we still found that users wanted to generate some icon strings, which were out of domain. Therefore, future work is necessary to analyze more corpora and icons that are relevant for crisis situations.

Our context awareness collaborative information system provides dynamic environment status of a crisis event. Using a rule based approach, it selects only relevance, fidelity and within timeline reports and shares them to a decision making module.

Our experimental results showed that both iconic interfaces could serve as communication mediator. Nevertheless, a field test is still necessary to gather data about how people use and experience an iconic interface in a real life crisis situation during mobile to cover more user requirements in mobile context use.

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