MERKAVA TANK

Planning and performing complex usability tests – a computer system for combat management in a Merkava tank

BACKGROUND

The Barak system is a computer system for combat management in a MERKAVA tank which is comprised of a tactical computer, observation equipment, AR helmet and various physical and digital operational equipment.

The new system will include unprecedented capabilities for the commander which will change the way in which tank commanders currently operate.

A significant part of the characterization and development of complex systems is continuous validation of assumptions versus reality. The correct way to do this is through usability testing, at increasing levels of complexity with soldiers who are intended to use the system.

THE CHALLENGE

For ED&U, the challenge was planning and implementing a complex and comprehensive research plan for a system which we characterized and designed for the client.

The system, on the one hand, offers significant technological advantages and, on the other hand, allows tank commanders to learn to work in a completely new manner, different to ways in which they are accustomed, while reducing cognitive overload and simplifying processes.

  1. Simulating a tank environment and combat scene, in order to create a sense of realism for the research participants – according to varying levels of complexity.
    In light of the complexity of the system and its ongoing development process, we were required to choose the elements which will have the most significant impact and are the most complex in the system and test them in order to make future decisions.

Planning and implementation of the research and testing plan which accompanies the characterization and development:

  • Learning user habits and the way in which they currently operate
  • Examining, by experience, alternative interfaces as part of the characterization process
  • Examining the learning and operational challenges of characterized system capabilities
  • Identifying potential problems in order to remedy them during characterization
  • Examining system components while exclusively focusing on parts we would like to test
  • Observing how tank commanders respond to changes in interface and workflow
  • Demonstrating how the final system will look to the client and decision makers

WHAT WE DID

We worked in several dimensions:

  1. Methodological
  2. Technological
  3. Operational

The methodological challenge in examining complex systems is comprised of several components:

  1. Human factors: The system has different factors which influence each other: Ergonomic, digital and cognitive.
  2. Technological complexity: The different technological elements were tested at increasing levels of complexity throughout the trial, at each stage an additional technological layer was added.
  3. Experimental scenarios: The participants received tasks with increasing levels of complexity in each trial.

Our UI/UX team was involved in planning and performing the trials, as were members of the research team: Cognitive human engineering and ergonomics.

Technical and operational stage:

Performing the tests while the system is still in the development stages required us to create a simulated experience of reality which allowed us to examine the solutions we designed.

 

The environment included: Physical construction of the MERKAVA tank commander station; a computer station – an interactive mock-up of the interfaces with the various options we aimed to test; augmented reality eyewear which replaced the commander’s helmet; operation equipment, including a joystick and buttons which were connected to the system.

 

For each experiment, we defined the scope of the participants and their professional affiliation. All of the participants were IDF tank commanders. In this way we received feedback from the people who are intended to use the future system.

 

THE RESULT

Validating development and design decisions during the development process, while receiving feedback for immediate improvements.

By incorporating the research process as an integral part of the characterization of the interface and product, each stage was tested and adjustments were made throughout the process.

Outcome: Progress was accompanied by close supervision by the customers – the people who will operate the final system. As opposed to a situation where the complete produced is tested as the end of the process, examining smaller parts allowed for changes at the right junctions, in terms of content, cost and meeting the project’s timeline.

THE IMPACT

We helped to create a more streamlined workflow in terms of budget and timeline, bringing the final product to the production stage faster.We create a new workflow standard: The research stage has become a mandatory stage in the development of our client’s systems.

Partners: HaCubia Studio, Yaron Luvton Studio

 

IN THE MEDIA

Images source: Israel Defense Forces, Spokesperson unit

 

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