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Formal Aspects of Interface Design

Human interaction with machines, computers, and automated devices is so widespread that it is present in almost every aspect of our lives. While these systems consist of numerous internal states and events, the only face the user sees is the interface: always a highly abstracted description of the underlying system. Every user interface is a fa├žade, a fabricated story about the actual operation of the underlying machine. As such, a fundamental aspect of any interface design is to make sure that all the information needed by the user is highlighted and readily available, while all the irrelevant and superfluous information is removed. One of the best examples of interface and information abstraction is the well-known diagram of the London Underground, which is quite different from an actual geographical map of the Underground. Some of the work that my colleagues and I did in the past several years was to better understand this abstraction concept and develop formal methods to evaluate and verify user interfaces; making sure that the abstraction is correct, reliable, efficient, and usable. Our final step was to construct an algorithm that can automatically generate correct and reliable user interfaces and user manuals. As part of this work, we also created a software system called UIVerify. Using UIVerify, it is possible to verify a proposed interface and also generate interfaces.


Degani, A. & Heymann, M. Toward Automatic Generation of User Interfaces: Abstraction of Internal States and Transitions. 10th IFAC Symposium on Analysis, Design, and Evaluation of Human-Machine Systems. Paper accepted.

Heymann, M., & Degani, A. (2007) Formal analysis and automatic generation of user interfaces: Approach, methodology, and an algorithm. Human Factors 49:311-330.

Shiffman, S., Degani, A., & Heymann, M. (2005). UIVerify - a web-based tool for verification and automatic generation of user interfaces. Proceedings of the 8th Annual Applied Ergonomics Conference. New Orleans, LA.

Shiffman, S., Degani, A., & Heymann, M. (2004). Tools for verification and automatic generation of user interfaces. Poster presented at Tenth International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction in Aeronautics. Toulouse, France: EURISCO.

Degani, A. (2004). "Walk-in" Interfaces and Internet Applications. (A book chapter, from Taming HAL, about interface design.)

Degani A., & Heymann, M. (2003). Analysis and Verification of Human-Automation Interfaces. In D. Harris, V. Duffy, M. Smith, & C. Stephanidis (Eds.), Human Centered Computing: Cognitive, Social and Ergonomic Aspects, Vol.3, pp. 185-189. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. (Proceedings of the10th International Conference on Human - Computer Interaction, Crete, June 22-27, 2003). Invited lecture.

Heymann, M., & Degani, A. (2002). On the construction of human-automation interfaces by formal abstraction. In S. Koenig and R. Holte (Eds.), Abstraction, Reformulation and Approximation (pp. 99-115). London, UK: Springer-Verlag.

Heymann, M., & Degani, A.(2002). On Abstractions and Simplifications in the Design of Human-Automation Interfaces. NASA Technical Memorandum #211397. Moffett Field, CA: NASA Ames Research Center.

Heymann, M., & Degani, A. (2002). Constructing human-automation interfaces. Ninth International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction in Aeronautics. Boston: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Degani, A., Shafto, M., & Kirlik, A. (1999). Modes in human-machine systems: Review, classification, and application. International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 9(2), 125-138.

Degani, A., Mitchell, C. M., & Chappell, A. R. (1995). Task models to guide analysis: Use of the operator function model to represent mode transitions. In R. S. Jensen (Ed.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Aviation Psychology Symposium. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.

Degani, A., Palmer, E. A., & Bauersfeld, K. G. (1992). "Soft" Controls for Hard Displays: Still a Challenge. Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors Society (pp. 52-56). Atlanta, GA: Human Factors Society.

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