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The brain's subconscious behind new technology

Published: 5 April 2017

In a new, mobile laboratory at Luleå University of technology researchers can get a picture of the brain's subconscious reactions to new technological solutions. Several types of biometric data can be captured simultaneously and the results are synchronised and can be analysed together. The aim is to reduce erroneous or dangerous behaviors when people use new technology – such as self-driving cars.

– When we develop self-driving cars, we can come up with systems that are better adapted to human behavior and we can thereby prevent car accidents, says Camilla Grane, researcher in Engineering Psychology at Luleå University of Technology. 

Analyse of human behavior

In the new DEPICT lab at Luleå University of Technology the scientists can visualise and analyse human behavior, directly in the industrial environment or in various types of vehicles. Research questions that can be answered is for example how decision-making works in hasardous environments, or how the driver is affected by fatigue. The measuring equipment in the mobile lab reads biometricalsignals  that we are not aware of or can control. It becomes possible to perform experiments in which different types of biometric data can be synchronised. In most cases where people's experiences need to be examined, a tailored test that combines the latest technology can be designed.

– The strength of the lab is that we have a system that can capture data from all our sensors simultaneously. We can go back to a specific event and analyse the reaction of the person. The more we know about how people behave in different situations, the more user-friendly technology can become, says Bjarne Bergquist, professor in Quality Technology and Management at Luleå University of Technology.

Technology based on human conditions

When developing self-driving cars extensive knowledge of human behavior is aquired because technology should automate the capacity of the human operator. Previously, researchers relied on observations and what persons could tell about their experiences. It is quite difficult for a person to describe their actions in detail. With the help of the equipment in the DEPICT lab researchers can follow exactly what the driver is looking at and how the person reacts. This knowledge is used to find out when the information should be presented to the driver, and in what way, so that the driver have time to react. It is applicable when the sensors of the self-driving car are not reliable because of fog or snow.

– It is difficult to say that you don't understand the technology but the technology is not optimal, if you don't understand what to do. We can understand the problems by analysing what you see and how you react and thus make the technology more adapted to humans, says Camilla Grane.

The equipment in the lab has already been used for mobile studies in control room environment, among process operators in mines and among staff in the train control center. It is working environments with complex systems, where the work load is varied – extremely high or very monotonous. 

– Many operators are experiencing that the systems are shouting at them to catch their attention. If we have a better understanding of how we react and what our attention are drawn at, we can adapt the technology to better help us prioritise. It can reduce the risk of taking wrong decisions, says Camilla Grane.

The cost of the DEPICT-lab is 2.6 million and is funded by the Kempe Foundations and the Labfund at Luleå University of Technology. The lab will be shown for media on the 5th of april and the official opening will be held during april.

In media

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Management group

Peter Törlind

Törlind, Peter - Associate Professor

Organisation: Product Innovation, Humans and Technology, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts
Phone: +46 (0)920 492412
Room: A3540 - Luleå»
Bjarne Bergquist

Bergquist, Bjarne - Professor and Head of Subject

Organisation: ETSKVALO, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts
Phone: +46 (0)920 492137
Room: A2600 - Luleå»
Camilla Grane

Grane, Camilla - Senior Lecturer

Organisation: Engineering Psychology, Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Health, Education and Technology
Phone: +46 (0)920 492952
Room: A177 - Luleå»