User Experience Design for Human-Machine Teaming in Commanding a Distributed Constellation of Unmanned Assets in Search and Rescue; Addressing Mental Health Issues in the Digital World

Anderson, Troy, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Gerling, Gregory, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

In the age of Covid-19 and rapid digitalization, technology can be seen as both a solution and a problem. This dichotomy is exemplified by technology such as drones used in search and rescue applications; although the drone technology speeds up the rescue process, issues such as understandability and trust in automation emerge. The technical report will then address the novel issues that arise in designing a user interface for drone search and rescue operations. On the other hand, drones are one example of how digital technologies have been transforming the way people work, communicate and live their everyday lives; a point emphasized by the Covid-19 pandemic. The STS report then focuses on how these transformations impact mental health, a growing concern that many people and organizations remain unaware of. The tightly coupled topics represent both a technical approach to addressing issues introduced by technology and a socio-technical approach to address the social issues introduced by technology, specifically focusing upon the impacts of digital technology on mental health.
By examining how to handle novel issues such as understandability and trust in automation of a drone search and rescue operation, the technical approach can be seen as a viable part of the solution toward addressing how technology negatively shapes human action. In order to create these technical solutions, a literature review was first conducted in order to determine the factors to be considered in designing an interface for automated technology. Second, the underlying values and requirements of the search and rescue operation domain were identified and then built into user interface designs. The final designs were then evaluated by search and rescue operators and usability experts to obtain feedback on the overall understandability and effectiveness of the system.
In the evaluations, both search and rescue drone operators and expert heuristic evaluators concluded that the information presented was easy to follow and effectively presented. Minor portions of the screen that involved complex functionality induced a higher cognitive load on evaluators, but these issues can be addressed with future design solutions. Overall, the design of the system laid out information in a way to help build trust and understandability into the system, allowing the operator to effectively handle the search and rescue operation and reduce challenges associated with this technology.
The STS report seeks to answer the question: how can mental health issues caused by rapid technological advancements be combatted? It is argued that mental health issues in today’s society have not been addressed adequately and these issues are exacerbated by a growing use of digital technology in the world. An Actor-Network Theory approach is proposed in order to recognize the position that technology holds in the network of human actors and to identify ways in which stability can be created through communication. Psychological studies and statistics reported surrounding the use of digital technologies are used in order to recognize the growing mental health problem. The Actor-Network Theory framework combined with multiple business management studies are used to construct a solution for reducing the negative psychological impact of technology in the workplace.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of digital technology has increased by up to 100 percent or more as people transitioned from the physical to the virtual environment. The use of digital technology has been shown to have significant negative impacts on mental health including increased stress, social isolation, lack of support, reduced attention and technology addiction. Despite the significance of these impacts, organizations and the government have failed to take effective action on these issues relating to mental health in the work force and in the general population. Recognition of digital technology as a boundary object in the network of human and nonhuman actors is then key towards creating change and establishing stability. This change and stability also require the development of the negotiation space which allows actors to communicate and develop solutions such as job design, leadership training and mental health policies. Given this stability, millions of peoples’ lives can be improved and billions of dollars can be saved.
As digital technologies are further introduced into society, there will always be new problems associated with these technical solutions. One approach to address these issues is shown by the technical report attempting to minimize technical challenges by developing better technical solutions. However, a more comprehensive approach is sociotechnical in nature, addressing problems with the technology as part of a wider network of human and non-human actors, and only with this approach can stability be created.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Actor Network Theory, Mental Health, Digital Technology, Drone Search and Rescue, User Experience Design

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering
Technical Advisor: Gregory Gerling
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Katherine Fogarty, Hannah Kenkel, Jonathan Raisigel, Sarah Zhou

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