Learning Control Theory by Experiencing Dynamics
Simulation games have been, and still are, on the forefront of human-computer interface design. Where games have always used speed and dynamics in as far as the technology allowed, mainstream software design has long ignored the dimension of time: a word processor does not care whether you pause for a long time between entering sentence, words, or letter. The rapid and sustained growth of computer processing power has not been matched by a corresponding growth in the expressiveness or sensitivity of user interfaces. Only in the last few years do we see attention for expressive use of dynamic used, in part because the early Graphical User Interfaces did not give programmers access to the real-time behavior of their applications: at any time the operating system might cut in and shut the user out. Now that designers are regaining the ability to specify the dynamic behavior of interface elements, they need to have a hands-on understanding of the dynamics of human control theory. Textbooks can describe how the difficulty of controlling a task increases with the order of control: 0th order (position control) is easy, 1st order (velocity control) gets more difficult, whereas skilled experts such as airplane and helicopter pilots have to deal with 3rd and 4th order control.
In order to understand the difficulties involved, and to design solutions for them, designers need to experience what the different orders imply. In this poster we describe a 'driving game’ that teaches order of control by merging experiential display (game-like simulation) with a reflective display (theory-like controls). In developing the application, many design aspects of linking and expressing both theoretical and experiential factors needed to be solved. Design students using the simulation had to become competent at the control task, but also understand their errors, and recovery behavior. We discuss custom-made sliders, gauges, and other display elements that were especially tuned to the learning process of the students.
Stappers, P. J.,
& Flach, J. M.
(2003). Learning Control Theory by Experiencing Dynamics. .