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Proceedings Paper

Interaction design challenges and solutions for ALMA operations monitoring and control
Author(s): Emmanuel Pietriga; Pierre Cubaud; Joseph Schwarz; Romain Primet; Marcus Schilling; Denis Barkats; Emilio Barrios; Baltasar Vila Vilaro
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Paper Abstract

The ALMA radio-telescope, currently under construction in northern Chile, is a very advanced instrument that presents numerous challenges. From a software perspective, one critical issue is the design of graphical user interfaces for operations monitoring and control that scale to the complexity of the system and to the massive amounts of data users are faced with. Early experience operating the telescope with only a few antennas has shown that conventional user interface technologies are not adequate in this context. They consume too much screen real-estate, require many unnecessary interactions to access relevant information, and fail to provide operators and astronomers with a clear mental map of the instrument. They increase extraneous cognitive load, impeding tasks that call for quick diagnosis and action. To address this challenge, the ALMA software division adopted a user-centered design approach. For the last two years, astronomers, operators, software engineers and human-computer interaction researchers have been involved in participatory design workshops, with the aim of designing better user interfaces based on state-of-the-art visualization techniques. This paper describes the process that led to the development of those interface components and to a proposal for the science and operations console setup: brainstorming sessions, rapid prototyping, joint implementation work involving software engineers and human-computer interaction researchers, feedback collection from a broader range of users, further iterations and testing.

Paper Details

Date Published: 24 September 2012
PDF: 16 pages
Proc. SPIE 8451, Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy II, 845110 (24 September 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.925180
Show Author Affiliations
Emmanuel Pietriga, INRIA (France)
INRIA Chile - CIRIC (Chile)
Pierre Cubaud, Conservatoire National des Arts Métiers (France)
Joseph Schwarz, European Southern Observatory (Germany)
Romain Primet, INRIA (France)
Marcus Schilling, European Southern Observatory (Germany)
Denis Barkats, Joint ALMA Office (Chile)
Emilio Barrios, Joint ALMA Office (Chile)
Baltasar Vila Vilaro, Joint ALMA Office (Chile)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8451:
Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy II
Nicole M. Radziwill; Gianluca Chiozzi, Editor(s)

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