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IGNORING ALARMS: Turning Off Technology with Deadly Results

(Bloomingdale, IL: September 6, 2006) – What if an alarm goes off and no one hears it, asks Israeli researcher Avi Harel in an article appearing in the current issue of User Experience magazine, membership publication of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA). Research done by his firm, Ergolight Ltd., looks at situations in which alarms are muted or ignored, often due to excessive false alarms, and what designers can do to bring attention back to the alarm. This can be a life or death issue, especially in the context of current events in the Middle East.

The current issue of User Experience magazine also contains two other articles about usable sound. In “Auditory Displays in Healthcare,” Dr. Penelope Sanderson, director of the Key Centre for Human Factors at The University of Queensland, Australia, discusses a new international standard for medical alarms. Dangerously, the standard creates alarms that are, for the most part, unintelligible to the nurses and other medical professionals who need to use them.

Intelligibility of automated voice response systems is the theme of “Point, Counterpoint: What Three Experts Say about Speech Usability,” written by Dr. Susan L. Hura, the founder of SpeechUsability, Dr. Melanie D. Polkosky, of IBM, and Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, associate professor in the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department at Auburn University.

In addition to the sound articles, the issue also covers methods for collecting information in the field. Both “Finding Uses for a New Technology: Moving with a Magic Thing” by Anu Kanakian, Idean Research in Espoo, Finland, and “Cultural Probes” by John Murphy, University of Melbourne, Australia, describe uses of diaries in field research. And Microsoft user-experience researcher Eliana Martella explains how to collect ethnographic information in “Story Collecting: Practical Tips from Ethnography.”

The Usability Professionals' Association is an international, non-profit, professional association with more than 2000 members in the US and 35 other countries. Members are specialists in evaluating and designing products that are easy to learn and use. The organization provides its members with a wide variety of professional services. Through outreach the UPA:

  • Shares information about the skills and approach of usability professionals in meeting needs for usable products.
  • Acts as an advocate for usability in consumer, corporate and governmental software, products and web sites.
  • Educates the general public about the usability.

For more information, contact:

The Usability Professionals' Association
140 N. Bloomingdale Rd.
Bloomingdale, IL 60108-1017
email: office@upassoc.org
web: http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org

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