A new approach to noise reduction measures

Together with the Audio Communication and Technical Acoustics departments of the Technical University of Berlin, we have been working since the middle of the year on ‚Testing psychoacoustic parameters for innovative noise reduction strategies’ (FE 02.0431/2019/IRB) for the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt).

In three successive experiments, we address the questions of which perceptual qualities humans associate with road traffic noise and how they evaluate such noise overall with respect to its annoyance. In particular, however, we are interested in how conventional and new noise control measures change the evaluation of recipients and which psychoacoustic parameters play a role in this process. Psychoacoustic parameters are technical measures that can be used to describe auditory perceptions inherent to noise sources. Examples include loudness, sharpness, roughness, fluctuation strength and tonality, which influence how annoying we perceive a (traffic) noise.

A new approach to noise control is acoustic masking, in which sounds are added to existing sound sources. These can be, for example, natural sounds such as the sound of rivers, birds chirping or fountains splashing. In the project, we aim to determine whether these and other new noise control measures can reduce the annoyance of traffic noise and which new psychoacoustic parameters and models can make a significant contribution to these efforts.

The studies are being conducted together with our partners in the Mixed Reality Design Lab of TU Berlin and UdK Berlin.

This report is based on parts of the research project carried out at the request of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, represented by the Federal Highway Research Institute, under research project No. 02.0431/2019/IRB. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Proof of Concept for innovative MRI Project „Intendicate“

In mid-2020, we received an award for our particularly innovative idea for safety in industrial robotics “Intendicate”, combined with a funding to implement this idea. We worked on this idea for a year together with our colleagues from the HU Berlin and the Whydobirds. Nine design studies, four lab experiments and countless lines of code later, we can announce: It works. Intendicate effectively makes it easier for humans to predict the movements of a robotic arm in a collaboration task. This increases trust in the machine, decreases mental stress, and frees up more cognitive resources to safely and attentively address the work context.

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CONTENT4ALL project completed

Under the consortium leadership of Fincons Group, HFC has been working on the CONTENT4ALL project for the last three years together with the research institutions University of Surrey and Fraunhofer HHI, the TV broadcaster VRT and the media company SwissTXT. The project was co-funded by the European Commission (grant nr. 762021). The aim of the project was to test technologies and algorithms that facilitate the production of sign language content for television broadcasters, in order to provide more content for the Deaf.

In the project, HFC was responsible for the user research. We applied user-centered design methods in the different phases of the project – from requirements analysis to the evaluation of virtual sign language interpreters. Find out more about our experiences and selected results in two recent publications [1, 2].

The pandemic also made it difficult for us to interact directly with users. We met this challenge with an expanded portfolio for accessible online surveys, which was also very well received by the survey participants. We published our insights and challenges from the development of accessible questionnaires with a fun factor in the form of a guideline paper [3] . The project has helped us to make further progress in scientific, ethical and interdisciplinary terms. We hope that we have helped to take another step forward in accessible media design.

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Digitalization in aviation with d-NOTAM

Photo by Tomas Williams on Unsplash

The d-NOTAM project started on 01.12.2020. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure within the scope of the funding guideline Modernity Fund (“mFUND”).

The aim of the project is to develop software assistance using the available basic data of the aeronautical infrastructure in order to completely digitize the NOTAM process. The NOTAMs can be processed automatically and displayed in a pilot’s “navigation device” (Electronic Flight Bag – EFB). This reduces not only the risk of missing important NOTAMs, but also the pilot’s workload in flight planning to a considerable extent.

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A good start into the year 2021!

You don’t believe? Okay, Santa Claus was made up. The rest is available in our VR Lab RoSi.

Thank you very much for the pleasant cooperation in the challenging year 2020. We wish you a successful start into the new year and look forward to vivid collaborations in 2021!

Classify MRI scenarios easily with the context-person-robot heuristic “KOPROH”.

In the accompanying research project ARAIG, we were confronted with the problem that although there are different types of encounters between humans and service robots, there is no universal tool for distinguishing between them. Together with the BAuA, we developed the context-person-robot heuristic, KOPROH for short, based on practical experience in R&D projects and the existing scientific corpus. With 16 graphical scales, KOPROH helps to provide clarity about the characteristics of an MRI scenario and to compare multiple MRI scenarios quickly and easily. This paper presents an example of the approach, outlines possible applications, and discusses its utility in occupational science.

Presentation at the World Usabillity Day on the MRI project Intendicate

Does a machine or an algorithm have an intention? In the classical sense probably not (yet). Nevertheless, humans tend to interpret artificial action as intentional action. One can try to remedy this effect – or use it purposefully. In this talk at Word Usability Day 2020, the Intendicate project will be used to illustrate how intentionality can be mastered and used to reduce uncertainty and build trust.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 779966

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!