Are They Ready for Operation? How to Assess the Control Room System of a New NPP.

In Finland, the OL 3 nuclear power plant will be the first EPR (pressurized water reactor) in Europe that will go into operation soon. The characteristics of an EPR are a digital I&C system and a fully digital control system for the power plant. The EPR will be controlled entirely via screens instead of using control buttons on large consoles as in traditional control rooms. Before the final commissioning, an analysis should be carried out in order to determine whether the operating personnel is capable of controlling the power plant safely in all possible operating states under the given conditions.

In cooperation with MTO Safety GmbH, we have conducted an experimental investigation. In four scenarios, situation awareness, human error, communication, coordination and workload were recorded and evaluated with different shift teams. The methodical approach of the investigation is reported in the latest edition of “atw International Journal für Nuclear Power”.

Miller, R., Leitner, R., Gierig, S. & Kolrep, H. (2020). Are They Ready for Operation? How to Assess the Control Room System of a New NPP. atw International Journal of Nuclear Power (65, 498-503).

Attentive agents, baking buddies and helpers seeking help

Management report on the positive developments of assistance robotics in Germany

In the BMBF funding program “Autonomous robots for assistance functions: Interactive Basic Skills”, pioneering work for human-robot interaction has been done in the last 3 years. In eight multidisciplinary projects, the question was investigated whether and how humans and assistance robots can best get along – working, talking, exercising, eating, cooking or riding an elevator, for example. The exchange and cooperation between the projects was harmonized by the accompanying research program ARAIG led by HFC. The partners Fraunhofer IPA, the TU Berlin and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were involved in this program, the latter has now published the developments of the projects and the results of the accompanying research in an anthology. We wish you a lot of fun and enlightening moments while reading!

Study of the potential use of VR in human-robot interaction completed

Virtual Reality (VR) is increasingly used in research as an experimental environment. However, this raises the question of the generalizability of the results obtained with VR. Are the experience and behavior of participants in a VR environment similar to those under real conditions? Can we observe and measure valid results?

This question is addressed in a study by HFC within the research project “Autonomous robots for assistance functions: Interactive Basic Skills” (ARAIG). In the past weeks, 30 participants experienced a museum robot in an art gallery, either within a VR environment in 3D, as a screen simulation in 2D or in a physically real gallery. The successful completion of the study now enables a comparative evaluation of the subjective experience and objective behavior of the participants between the different experimental environments.

HFC would like to thank all participants.

New CONTENT4ALL questionnaire available!

New CONTENT4ALL questionnaire available! We have developed a new questionnaire to test how well an automated sign language translation works and how we can improve it. For this we have chosen a hopefully exciting way of presentation. The questionnaire is available in DGS/German.

Notice: The questionnaire was online until August 4, 2020 and is no longer available!

Thank you for your support!
Your CONTENT4ALL project team

Wizard-of-Oz user tests at the “Rehabilitation And Health Center Johannesbad Saarschleife”

A number of user tests were successfully conducted by project INTUITIV. Together with our partners from DFKI (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) HFC had the opportunity to test the robotic walker and the robotic arm in a real-world clinical setting and gather early data about their practical implementation and impact. Through these early prototype, “Wizard-of-Oz”-style experiments, in which robot functions and capabilities that are not yet implemented are simulated by an remote control operator invisible to the participants, we have gathered important data and further requirements of the respective stakeholders regarding the robotic platforms. Especially important for the purposes of the project was the fact that all participants were recruited from real patients at the clinic with varying degrees of mobility impairments, allowing for researching the behaviours and feelings of this vulnerable stakeholder group while in proximity to the autonomously navigating robotic plattforms.

The successful completion of our study enables Project INTUITIV to further inform and shape the design process for the robots and their behaviour towards more user-centered solutions suiting the  needs and preferences of those who will interact and coexist with the robots in the future.

HFC would like to thank the Rehabilitation And Health Center Johannesbad Saarschleife, and especially all of the helpful participants supporting our research, for their dedication and making the user tests possible.

Project for CADwalk Global completed: ESA control room workstation for satellite and rover control

In a trend-setting project, we designed new ergonomic workplace concepts for ESA satellite and rover control operations for CADwalk Global in the past months. This included a new type of workstation design that is suitable for an increasing number of satellite missions that are managed by a control room operator. In addition to workplace ergonomics, we also looked at new ways of setting up control rooms.

At the beginning of 2020, we carried out observations in two control rooms at ESA in Darmstadt and talked to the operators. This was followed by an intensive design phase in which we developed two alternative workplace design concepts. Subsequently, we conducted a focus group with ESA staff – which was then already digital due to corona conditions. After the vivid discussion, one of the concepts allowing more flexibility to support future workshops with end-users prevailed, which is now being implemented by CADwalk Global.

Award for interdisciplinary contribution to MRK safety

Eyes on robots is a controversial issue. While they can give the friendly tin buddy next door just the desired touch of human-likeness, in an industrial context one usually tries to avoid such associations. This makes the idea of equipping a classic industrial robot with a pair of these nevertheless all the more appealing. Not to make it more chummy, but to make its operation more natural and safer for humans. To do this, the eyes do not have to see, but to be seen: the robot’s eye movements should indicate in which direction its arm will move next. Since humans can recognize and interpret eye movements with little cognitive effort, we see this as an opportunity to open a communication channel between humans and robots that will increase safety. We recently received an award for this idea, and with it the funding for a nine-month research and development project in which we want to rethink interdisciplinarity: Together with the engineering psychology of the Humboldt University and the motion design experts from why do birds, a display is being developed that is safe and intuitive to understand, and looks great at the same time.

How do control room operators and personnel working in the plant communicate with each other in the digital age?

HFC has been working intensively on this question in cooperation with the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) for the last two years.

In modern organizations, field staff use mobile display devices (smartphones, laptops, etc.) not only for communication, but also for data acquisition, maintenance and sometimes also for switching operations. New interaction systems, especially for field use, should be selected according to the task to be performed, because the task and the special working context of field staff in plants of various industrial sectors place increased demands on e.g. robustness, freedom from glare, sound quality, etc. Ultimately, mobile technology must support the user in his perception, processing and execution of actions in the best possible way and contribute to the avoidance of errors, because these can possibly have health consequences.

In order to support the design and introduction of new technology, our specially developed checklist can help practitioners to consider basic requirements, organisational issues, but also user-oriented hardware and software design. The checklist and the work in the project are described in a comprehensive report, which is now available at In addition, together with BAuA we have submitted an English language paper about the project and the checklist in CHEMICAL ENGINEERING TRANSACTIONS, which will hopefully be accepted and published by autumn 2020.

Your opinion matters!

Online questionnaire on TV content with virtual sign language interpreter

In our project CONTENT4ALL, a television studio is developed that is not based at the TV station but can be used remotely (remote studio). This will make the work of sign language interpreters easier, not requiring them to travel to the TV station but instead to use the remote studio facilities, even at their own premise. The new technical system will also make it easier and cheaper for television stations to produce sign language programmes in the future. As a result, more programmes in sign language can be offered. Deaf viewers will see the television content as enriched with a virtual 3D representation of the captured sign language interpreter.

Due to the fact that we would like to develop the system in a way that it is the most effective and good-looking for the television viewers, we would like to ask you in the following online survey about your opinion on how you think such a content should be designed and spatially arranged in the best possible way on the TV screen. The survey just takes about 20 minutes:

Please also forward this mail to your friends, association members and other interested parties.

Thank you for your support!
Your CONTENT4ALL project team