Human Factors symposium

I attended a Human Factors symposium at the University of Toronto. It was organized by the HFIG (Human Factors Interest Group) and titled as Celebration of Applied Human Factors Research, in Honour of Prof. John W. Senders’ 90th Birthday.

At the symposium, I noticed an interesting connection between decision-making and Human Factors. Research in decision-making studies decision biases and provides prescriptions to eliminate or mitigate them. Similarly, HF researchers study errors from the real-life examples and suggest practical recommendations to overcome those errors.

For instance, John Senders and his colleagues studied errors of train drivers, vehicle drivers, airplane drivers, and medical practitioners in terms of their processing visual information. (In 1960s, John drove in Boston wearing a helmet and a visor that occluded his vision to find how often drivers need to see front!) Then, they provided recommendations to the city of Toronto, simulate trainings for pilots, or even develop devices for doctors such as Head Mounted Display).

Since Human Factors research investigates human behavior issues elegantly, which has a great potential to business. Shumin Zhai, for instance, presented his business which was developed from a research project. About 10 years ago, his team developed an innovative text input system for a touch screen device. It does not simply improve a conventional keypad to make it easy to use (e.g., laying out keys differently). Rather, it allows users to use their gestures to input texts. It is now called as ShapeWriter.

To me, Don Norman‘s call for Human Factors researchers to work with business people sounds right. I believe designers need business education to communicate with business people effectively. I found a wide variety of business-able issues were discussed in the symposium but hardly found any people with business background.

I hope to find more business students working at Human Factors community in the future.

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