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Usability rekindled : in pursuit of easier simulator control station operability
Currently, research and development of the usability of simulator control stations (i.e., the interfaces usedto manage simulators and deploy scenarios) receive less attention than the task environments they are used tomanipulate and control. Focus tends to be channeled into discussions and debates surrounding the development offidelity and other functional matters, such as simulator effectiveness, or ways to expand their scope of application.While these are important issues, simulator control stations need to have more usability built into them to ensure anoverall smooth and efficient operation of the simulator. This paper aims to motivate industry and research participantsto expand efforts to improve the design of simulator control stations, particularly in their ease of use. First, a reviewof the current state of usability within simulator research and development is given, followed by an evaluation of thefeatures and functionalities of simulator control stations in their two primary contexts (training and research). Existingissues with simulator control station operability are explored, including the causes and consequences of lowoperability. Other design and engineering domains are used to highlight: (1) frontiers where usability is moreprogressive and fertile in its advancement; and (2) usability best practices that have been researched and developed.Using these findings, the paper provides some preliminary suggestions and proposes steps that the simulator industrycould start taking, in order to change the way control stations are currently being developed, and to make them moreuser-friendly. The paper concludes by revealing several prospective roadblocks that may impede these aims, followedby some advice on how to tackle them. These realities and challenges will help to invigorate novel research anddevelop ideas that will advance the overall quality of future simulators.