Visualization and Display Design

Index Finger Pointing on a Touch Screen

InterHapt: Research into Haptic Feedback while using Input Devices

Touch-sensitive screens not only display information, but also provide means to manipulate information in the same place. Thus, it is possible to perform complex interactions in a small area while remaining flexible at low cost. However, the familiar tactile feedback that mechanical keyboards provide, is lost. Especially those persons, who have developed skills in using mechanical controls during their life, for example in typing, experience inconvenience. In general, manipulation using a flat, steady surface is more difficult than using mechanical keys, which results in lower input speed and higher error rate.

To address this problem, currently artificially generated vibrations provide tactile feedback. While this simple haptic feedback is already largely used, no design recommendations exist for a task-appropriate haptic feedback, consistent to expectation and to established mechanical keys.

Project InterHapt empirically explores both human perception regarding haptic sensation and technical options to generate haptic feedback. Using different scenarios, laboratory experiments for input to stationary and mobile touch-sensitive screens will be set up and equipped with various forms of haptic feedback. Different feedback methods will be evaluated by human subjects applying subjective measures and objectively assessed behaviour and performance indicators.

Finally, design recommendations are derived from the experimental results covering both professionals (e.g., using POS systems) and everyone (e.g., using ticket machines). Even mobile devices such as smartphones will be covered by these design recommendations. This will close knowledge gaps about human characteristics in haptic perception and set grounds for application in future applied research projects. The visual and auditory interfaces of today's interactive systems already termed multimodal will be enriched in future with an additional useful modality. Transfer of the project results will be ensured by continuous dialogue with users and implementation partners, and a final workshop.

Participating Scientists

Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ludger Schmidt
Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
Martin Seeger, M. Sc.
Tobias Stein M. Sc.

Support and Duration

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), 5 / 2014 - 10 / 2015

Further Informationen about this Project

To top

Threedimensional Display of six Approach Pathes
Approach Paths

Auditory Cockpit Displays

Spatial Audio Displays to provide State and Directional Information in the Aircraft Cockpit

The pilot on a modern flight deck receives information mainly using the visual channel. Nowadays, auditory displays only alert and do not convey further information. Audio displays providing directional information are so far not used civil aircraft.

The project, supported by the German Research Foundation DFG, evaluates whether spatially positioned auditory announcements can support flight control tasks. Spatialized audio announcements shall support the own movement in space and time as well as the identification of intruders in direction and distance.

It is expected that the successful implementation of spatialized audio displays in the flight deck increases situational and traffic awareness, supports to comply with clearances in space and time and, thus, increases security.

Participating Scientists

Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dipl.-Ing. Vitalij Laubach

Support and Duration

German Research Foundation DFG, 2006 - 2009

To top

Haulage Vehicle in front of Excavator sourrounded by red Protection Area

Auditory Collision Warning

Development of an Auditory Collision Warning for a very large Commercial Vehicle

The operator of a very large construction vehicle is unable to see obstacles behind and to a certain extent to both sides of the vehicle. An auditory display shall provide information about obstacles out of the sight of the driver. As the visual focus of the driver is in front of the vehicle, obstacles, mainly behind and to the sides of the vehicle, may remain unseen. An auditory display provides obstacle warnings without interrupting the driver’s visual contact with the work area in front of the vehicle.

This project designed and evaluated an auditory display. The display provides information on direction and proximity of an obstacle as well as system information like malfunctions. Auditory signals have been designed such, that they are audible in background noise (engine and hydraulics), sound pleasing, and support directional hearing.

Phantom sound sources, created by power level differences between speakers at the sides and behind the driver provide directional impression. The power distribution across the speakers is determined experimentally.

Participating Scientists

Dr.-Ing. Bernd-Burkhard Borys
cand. ing. Leif Carl
Dipl.-Ing. Gerd Strätz


TEREX | O&K, Dortmund, Germany 


4 / 2006 - 12 / 2006 

To top

Using Evolutionary Methods to Optimize Human-Machine Interfaces

A new method to adapt interfaces between Humans and Machines for individual users will be presented. Using abstractions of evolutionary mechanisms like selection, recombination, and mutation in the developed EOGUI-Method (Evolutionary Optimization of Graphical User Interfaces) a computer based application of this method can be provided. This new optimization method uses objective, measureable data like assortment frequencies and time, and subjective evaluations of the users from electronic questionaires. By computing this data, visualizations of systems will be adapted to the needs and preferences of the human users. Within this thesis a user can choose his favourite objects out of four interfaces of different abstraction levels. These interfaces show the objects of the example process MIPS (MIxture Process Simulation). The EOGUI-method will be examined in an experiment by using this process. The results of this experiment shows that the new visualization is in fact adapted to the user. Furthermore it describes the improvement in visualizing industrial processes by using the designed evolutionary optimization method.

Doctoral Candidate

Dr.-Ing. Andreas Völkel, 2005

To top

Virtual Process Visualization

Changes in the field of process control are characterised by centralisation and estrangement. More and more processes have to be controlled and supervised by fewer operators.

The aim of this thesis was the development of a concept that counteracts these situations using visualisation techniques known from the virtual reality. The single process units have been implemented as virtual process elements. For each element group, a graphical object was modelled based on a typical appearance. The vivid character of this visualisation supports the formation of the correct mental model which is necessary for planning of operator actions.

Another main focus was the visualisation of process variables and relations between process elements. Relations between the process elements, such as time dependencies, are significant for the correct supervision and control of processes. Besides the realistic presentation of visible variables, such as filling levels, non-visible variables like temperature or pressure have been presented with commonly known colour and shape coding. The use of commonly known coding principles reduces the training effort.

A user interface for the supervision and control of a distillation column was implemented as an example. At the end of the project, the realised interface has been compared with other, more abstract interfaces.

Doctoral Candidate 

Dr.-Ing. Carsten Wittenberg, 2000

To top

Fuzzy Logic based Approximate Knowledge-Based Process Visualisation

A novel design method and technique for designing human-machine interfaces was developed and applied to a distillation column. These method and technology aim at an intensified user orientation during the development of human-machine interfaces adapted to the cognitive structures of process operators. Different models of human knowledge available as analogies and concepts are considered for design of the graphical user interface as well as for organizing the information management system to achieve a harmonic interaction between human and machine.

Fuzzy logic is used to transfer the conceptual knowledge into a computer representation. This enables to visualize symbolic values throughout an entire human-machine system. The visualisation and representation of the technical system is accomplished using different approaches like state, urgency of performing tasks, causal context as well as innovative visualisation formats. These include approximate process visualisation, task-oriented state visualisation, state-oriented task visualisation, and causal-oriented visualisation of goals.

Doctoral Candidate 

Dr.-Ing. Salaheddin Odeh né Ali, 1998

To top

Visualization of Flight Parameters in the Peripheral Visual Field, shown in the Design of Helicopter Cockpits

Working with the helicopter, the pilot’s visual focus is located outside the cockpit. Thus, flight instruments are visible only in the peripheral visual field.

A new approach was developed in this thesis to present helicopter system parameters in the peripheral visual field, using dynamic indicators. Information is coded into patterns of size and motion. Simulator experiments demonstrated that the perception of peripherally information is clearly improved by the novel dynamic display components.

Professional pilots participated in designing, improving, and validating the display concept. Due to the experimental results it is expected that the fault diagnosis in the cockpit of helicopters can be facilitated and that an allocation of the required information is possible on the whole visual field.

Doctoral Candidate 

Dr.-Ing. Jörg-O. Hartz, 1997

To top

Situation-Dependent Human-Machine Interface

This interdisciplinary research project started in 1996 with an intended duration of three years. The main objective of the project was a qualitative improvement of human-machine interaction by means of a dynamic representation of technical systems in supervision and control systems software.

The project based on a task orientation for the development of process visualisation software. This involved the questions for situation-specific information needs appearing during the work of operators and what, from the interface viewpoint, are the necessary design ergonomics, thereby taking into account the constraints which are set by the represented technical system. From answering these questions and under the above constraints, the minimal requirements are derived that visualisation software has to meet. This point-of-view explicitly includes the operator.

The operator's information needs depend on the dynamic characteristics of various interaction situations. These are determined by the system states, by the abilities of the operator, and by his information processing goals. The objective of this project was the development of a task-oriented human-machine interface concept for the integration of presentation techniques with knowledge structures, and afterwards its testing and evaluation in an application example.

Participating Scientists

Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen
Dipl.-Ing. Falk Mletzko
Dipl.-Psych. Werner Ebert
Dipl.-Des. Philip Zerweck

Support and Duration 

German Research Fondation (DFG), 1996 - 2003

To top


Process Visualization using Means-Ends Hierarchies

This project developed alternative operator interfaces for the two applications of the project AMPCA: A cement grinding mill and a steam generator of a fossil fuel power plant. These interfaces were developed using two relatively novel techniques, Multilevel Flow Modelling (MFM), developed by Lind, and Ecological Interface Design (EID) by Vicente and Rasmussen.

Application of these techniques results in interfaces that are an alternative for the current methodologies of display design. Current designs show topological views, for example the physically existing connections between components in the plant, but not the functional relation between these components.

MFM and EID both use a means-ends hierarchy to visualise the process. In a means-ends hierarchy, the ends are the goals that must be obtained and the means are the ways to obtain those goals. Depending on the level in the hierarchy, ends are the main goal, the sub goals or the functions, and means are the sub goals, the functions or the actions. The top in the hierarchy is the production goal of the plant. The lowest level contains the single actions that must be taken by the operator. The means-ends hierarchy visualises the conditions that must be met to attain the production goal.

Both techniques take a considerable step away from the conventional interface design. Potential gains are an improved insight in the functioning of the plant, better fault diagnosis, and possibly a reduction of operator learning time.

Participating Scientist

dr. ir. M. M. (René) van Paassen

Support and Duration

BRITE/EuRam-Fellowship of the European Union, 1994 - 1996

To top

Participative Design

Interactive design and evaluation of user interfaces

During the first phase of this project different methods for the design of graphical user interfaces of the process control engineering were developed. Using these methods, it is possible to involve a future operator early in the design of user interfaces. Necessary for an efficient participation of operators during the design was a comprehensive task analysis, the implementation and improvement of an efficient computer graphic design tool for generation of a sample pictures as well as the evaluation of the prototype user interfaces by laboratory experiments. Different user interface prototypes based on different philosophies, among these conventional process visualisation using flow diagrams as well as advanced visualisation techniques like the Multi-Level Flow Modelling method developed.

The second phase of this project focused on the participation aspect, bringing into play hypermedia approaches to enhance motivation and qualification of process operators. These goals were attained by the design of innovative visualisations of technical processes, by using qualitative simulations driving existing user interfaces as well as the integration of hypermedia user interfaces into process control systems.

All methods and techniques developed during this project have been evaluated using a chemical process simulator. The simulation was developed in the Institute for Systems Dynamics and Automatic Control Engineering (Systemdynamik und Regelungstechnik) of the University of Stuttgart.

Participating Scientists

Dr.-Ing. Sallaheddin Odeh, né Ali
Dr. rer. pol. Dipl.-Psych. Jens Heuer
Dr.-Ing. Martin Hollender
Univ.-Professor Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Gunnar Johannsen


Dr. Seufert Computer GmbH, Karlsruhe, Germany 
Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Loughborough University, Leicestershire, U.K.
Université de Liège, Liège, Belgium
Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany 

Support and Duration 

German Research Foundation (DFG), 1992 - 1996

To top