Virtual reality and psychological tools in the assessment of operator performance in complex human-machine interactions

  • Zara Gibson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines how advanced technological tools can be better used in the design process to enable optimal design creation from a human workload perspective. Firstly, this research examines the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in the design process. VR is a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. In recent years VR has become increasingly accessible and affordable, offering manufacturers and researchers the opportunity to utilise it to significantly improve their current methods for testing, measuring and monitoring user interactions and performance. VR allows the testing of prototypes at an earlier stage of the design process, cutting manufacturing costs and allowing designers /researchers a better understanding of the effects of HMI designs on the user; enabling the creation of optimal designs for users. However, how well VR can recreate user behaviours and interactions of real environment needs to be assessed.

As a result, this thesis examines how well Virtual Environments (VEs) can replicate the interactions and performance observed of a real environment. Evaluations of performance, subjective workload (using the NASA-TLX) and subjeedve evaluations of VE quality (using the Witmer-Singer 1998 Presence Questionnaire) in an interactive VR version of a flight simulator were recorded. Users provided a score of 67% presence which was enough to elicit comparable performance outcomes between the actual and virtual environment. These included similar altitude and lateral control deviations. NASA-TLX scores showed no significant differences in workload between the environments. Results suggest that VR can be used to simulate complex VEs to test and train operators in the execution of tasks and the management of workload.
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJoseph Butterfield (Supervisor), Matthew Rodger (Supervisor), Brian Murphy (Supervisor) & Adelaide Marzano (Supervisor)

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