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.
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.
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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