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INTERIM REPORT CHAPTER 1: MERBOARD ANALYSIS BY FUNCTIONALITY Elaine M. Huang College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology 85 5 th St. NW Atlanta, GA 30313 USA [email protected] Introduction This report contains an analysis of MERBoard use primarily during the nominal and extended Mars Exploration Rover missions. It incorporates data based on open-ended interviews and conversations with 14 mission scientists and engineers on the Spirit and Opportunity, as well as seven researchers and designers involved in the development of the MERBoard itself. Conceived largely as an interactive, sharable vertical work surface, the majority of the applications and functionalities developed for the MERBoard, such as MERSpace access, SolTree, and the digital whiteboard were designed to support synchronous collaborative activity. In retrospect, the general perception of MERBoard by both the users of the system and designers who observed the system in use was that MERBoard was an underemployed tool that was not used to its full potential. It may, however, that this perception is in part because MERBoard was perceived as an interactive tool that was not frequently used for explicit interaction. Discussions with users of the MERBoard, however, reveal that some of the primary value of the MERBoard may have been for passive or non-interactive display of items. Images, data products, and schedule information displayed ambiently on the MERBoards provided value to workgroup members resident in the space by serving as persistent sources of awareness information that required minimal effort to access. Even tools designed primarily for explicit interactivity and synchronous collaboration, such as SolTree and the whiteboard, were appropriated and valued for ambient and passive display purposes. While MERBoard may have been underutilized as well as a passive display tool, an evaluation of the more frequently-used tools available in the system demonstrates its potential as a low-effort communal source of information that extends beyond the active uses towards which its design is geared.
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The SolTree Tool The SolTree Tool provided by MERBoard for the purposes of visualizing potential Rover activities on a Sol-by-Sol basis in a tree format is frequently mentioned by MERBoard designers and MER Scientists as the most utilized tool available on the MERBoard. Used regularly during approximately the first 70 Sols of the MER missions for planning activities primarily by the Long Term Planning (LTP) theme group, SolTree can be considered the closest to a “killer app” provided by MERBoard; during this time it was engrained in daily, routine work activity in a fashion that most other MERBoard functionalities were not. SolTree as an Authoring Tool
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This note was uploaded on 02/13/2012 for the course CS 91.550 taught by Professor Yanco during the Spring '11 term at UMass Lowell.

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