Location-awareness and automation

Mobile map interactions during a rendezvous: exploring the implications of automation by Dearman, Inkpen and Truong is an interesting paper, to be published in Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, about automation and mutual location-awareness, a topic I dealt with in my PhD research. The paper describes two studies where people engaged in a rendezvous task employ location-awareness features. The authors address the role of automation in that context, to investigate its efficiency with regards to the use of the display space and the amount of manual interaction that can be reduced.

Here's a summary of the results:

"Location awareness can help facilitate a rendezvous of two or more persons. To further enhance the rendezvous experience, we conducted two complementary field studies to identify what information in a location-aware map application is important to rendezvous individuals (study 1) and to explore the use of autofocus, our automation technique to reduce user interactions with the rendezvous application while still providing relevant information to assist users with their navigation task (study 2). Overall, our results highlight the importance of maintaining the visibility of the user’s location in relation to that of their partner(s) and rendezvous location. Additionally, we show that automation is useful in the context of a rendezvous application, but that the considerations are significantly more nuanced than originally conceived. We discuss unique instances when and why the automation process broke-down or did not perform as required by users. The results of this work demonstrate the potential for automation in a location-aware rendezvous application and identify important design considerations for future work in this area."

Also the conclusion offers very relevant insights:

"Our results suggest that the visibility of key landmarks can help facilitate navigations. Prominent landmarks could be flagged by the system, or users could define custom landmarks as focus locations. Additionally, we need to consider the importance of landmarks, buildings and structures surrounding our focus area because of their importance for how we navigate. Rather than positioning the map such that a structure is only partially visible on the screen, the automation could identify the outline of the structure and position the map so it is completely visible".

Why do I blog this? I am not surprised by the conclusion (and the discussion about the nuance of automation) since... it often leads to similar issues. Moreover, the insights provided in the conclusion are interesting form a design point of view (see more in the paper)