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Smart and adaptive interfaces for INCLUSIVE work environment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INCLUSIVE (Smart and adaptive interfaces for INCLUSIVE work environment)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

Modern automatic machines and robotic cells in production plants are becoming more and more complex because of higher demands for fast production rate with high quality. Human operators interact with machines and robots by means of user interfaces, which are the modern cockpit of any production plant. All the activities are all performed by means of computerized Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs) that are inevitably becoming more complex as new functions are implemented by the production system.
In this new scenario, human operators experience many difficulties to interact efficiently with the machine; this is particularly true for middle age workers who feel uncomfortable in the interaction with a complex computerized system, even if they have a great experience about the underlying process. On the other hand, complex HMIs linked to complex machine and robot functions create a barrier to young inexperienced or disabled people for an effective management of the production lines.
The overall objective of the project is the following: developing a new concept of interaction between the user and a manufacturing system in which the behavior of the automation system adapts to human operator capabilities.
In order to achieve this objective, INCLUSIVE will develop new interfaces, able to measure the user capabilities and experience and to adapt the complexity and information load accordingly to create an inclusive and flexible working environment for any kind of operator, taking into account multiple cultural background, skills, age and different abilities. In other words, the target of the INCLUSIVE platform is to reverse the paradigm from the current situation in which “the human learns how the machine works” to the future scenario in which “the machine adapts to the human capability” accommodating to her/his own time and features.
In order to satisfy these objectives, the INCLUSIVE system is composed of three pillars:

1. MEASURE capabilities of the operator

2. ADAPT the HMI accordingly

3. TEACH and support the operator.
REQUIREMENTS AND SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE
Starting from the use cases provided by the industrial partners of the consortium, the requirements of the INCLUSIVE systems have been derived, considering an anthropocentric approach and achieving a set of guidelines for technical aspects, and aspects related to safety, health, and ethics aspects.

MEASUREMENT OF HUMAN CAPABILITIES
A model of the human operator interacting with the machines considered in the INCLUSIVE project has been derived, leading to defining clusters of users, defined based on their capabilities and attitude. The overall measurement concept has then been defined, considering different set of measurements: a priori, real time, and longitudinal.

ADAPTATION OF THE INTERACTION
A set of general rules have been defined to adapt the HMI and the interaction experience based on the output of the measurement module. The rules consider the necessity to adapt the interaction to the users’ perception capabilities, to their cognitive capabilities, and to their physical capabilities. The adaptation rules defined a meta-HMI, that is a general concept of adaptive interaction system, to be instantiated in each specific use case.

TRAINING, AND SUPPORT
Concepts have been developed for providing the operators with off-line training and for online support during the use of the system. In particular, different technological solutions have been considered, that allow to provide support to the operator in different contexts.

IMPLEMENTATION OF DEMONSTRATORS AND TESTING
The INCLUSIVE system has been tested in real production environment at the companies leading the use cases, with shopfloor workers. Feedback for test participants was collected with a questionnaire on their satisfaction and system usability. Moreover, objective measurements of users’ mental strain were collective and these were correlated with subjective feedback information.
The results have shown that workers felt satisfied when using the INCLUSIVE system. Results indicated also that the higher subjective satisfaction, the higher levels of physiological parameters. Although contrary to our expectations, it could be concluded that the arousal or activity level does not necessary equal a negative strain or an overload. It could also mean that although operators felt higher strain when learning to use the new HMI in experimental conditions, they were able to appreciate new functions and were satisfied with them on the cognitive level.
As a further outcome of the INCLUSIVE project, the achieved results were used to formulate a set of recommendations for the design and implementation of an adaptive HMI in relation to ensuring worker satisfaction and system usability in an industrial environment, as well as performance requirements.

EXPLOITATION
The principal findings of the project which will be exploited by the partnership are:
• Methodology for the design of HMIs that adapt to user's characteristics
• Methodology for the development of adaptive virtual training
• Software architecture for adaptive virtual training systems
• Methodology to assess mental strain
• Methodology for measurement and evaluation of worker satisfaction
• Middleware software
• Software for robot programming and reconfiguration
• HMI platform

DISSEMINATION OF RESULTS
Three target groups have been identified (Scientific community, Manufacturing industry, and Workers) and specific actions have been taken to address each of them. Project partners participated in these three years in conferences, fairs, workshops, public events, also specifically addressed to impaired people.
Videos about the project concept and results have been realized to disseminate the project: youtu.be/4L-aH_Kn4BU; youtu.be/H2UoYpfdM_I; youtu.be/Ms3Flj8xihc; youtu.be/ovjeyxITEkM.
INCLUSIVE together with the other projects launched by the same call founded the ACE Factory Cluster and written the white paper “Human-centred factories from theory to industrial pract
PROGRESS BEYOND THE STATE OF THE ART
• Empirically validated models that correlate measurable data with the cognitive status and workload of the operator
• A set of measurements and combination rules to obtain the model of the operator
• A general set of rules, the meta-HMI, that define how interaction systems need to adapt to the users’ needs, in terms of cognitive, perception and physical capabilities
• A concept for training and supporting the operators, both before and during the interaction with the system, exploiting different interaction methodologies that adapt to the users’ needs
• A modular middleware concept to put the INCLUSIVE modules in communication among each other, and with the controlled machines, supporting a seamless communication

EXPECTED RESULTS
• Development of a model for the assessment of workers’ satisfaction
• Implementation of the measurement system in industrial use cases
• Instantiation of the meta-HMI concept to the considered industrial use cases
• Integration of the training and support system into the HMI in the considered industrial use cases
• System integration of the INCLUSIVE models for real-world validation

POTENTIAL IMPACT
• Impact on customization of manufacturing processes
• Impact on productivity of manufacturing processes
• Social impact on employment and working conditions
• Impact on the market for automatic machines and robotic cells
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