Institute for Human-Machine Communication  -  Activity Report 1997-2000
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The integration of computer and communication technologies offers a rapidly growing number of information services since the invention of Morse telegraphy. Networked information and communication systems for data, text, voice and image make high-quality multimedia services and multimodal dialog possible beyond geographical and political borders. Due to technological and system-oriented developments these systems are getting more efficient, more cost-effective, but on the other hand also more complex. Not only engineers and computer experts are concerned in practice with computer operated systems but also more and more users with most differing professional background and manyfold tasks. New perspectives of how to obtain information come true for everyone.

Nevertheless, the users of modern information technologies shall not be overstrained by the methods of handling the systems and by the flows of available information. For that reason a system operability which is adequate to the user is not only a research and development aim of high priority but also a decisive quality criterion in the competition for market success. Progress in developing user-friendly, co-operative interfaces depends essentially on an optimal adaptation of the human-machine interaction to the user's sensory, motory, and cognitive capabilities and limits. The crucial significance to invest in an adequate human-machine interaction is also emphasized by topical Government supported research and development projects since recently.

The fields of application for user-friendly interfaces are various: network systems in the office, expert work stations for teaching, training, production, quality control and maintenance, in mobile applications, in medical services, and, last but not least, in the home and entertainment sector.

The Institute for Human-Machine Communication is concerned with research and teaching in the above mentioned field. The present activity report gives a brief overview on our recent investigations and contributions to an user adequate human-machine communication for different areas of application. It follows our preceding activity report 1990-1996, and it supplements the current internet pages of our institute.

A consistent continuation and inclusion of usability engineering methods into our research topics, and the reinforcement in multimodal human-machine interaction combining tactile modi with natural language and speech, handwriting, vision, and gesture have been considerable challenges during the reporting period. We also continued our activities in technical acoustics, noise evaluation, and audiological acoustics. We adapted our usability laboratory, our anechoic chamber, and our reverberation chamber to the settings of new tasks. In order to guarantee reproducible investigations and interpretations of visual information in the context of multimodal human-machine dialogs we established a new computer vision laboratory. As future automotive systems are a most important area of application where very high requirements must be met, we installed a new navigation laboratory for usability studies in cars too.

We are very grateful and proud of experiencing remarkable response and approval to our research results from national and international conferences as well as from our co-operation partners in application oriented research and development laboratories. Details of our investigations are documented in a series of doctoral dissertations, in theses submitted for a diploma degree, and in a couple of student research projects. Persons, parties, and friends interested in more details of our teaching and research work are kindly invited to get in touch with us.

Manfred K. Lang

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© Lehrstuhl für Mensch-Maschine-Kommunikation, Feb. 2001