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Oct. 8, 2021

E221 - Can AR Assist Repairs in Space?

Recorded live on October 7th, 2021, hosted by Nick Roome & Barry Kirby.

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| Recorded live on October 7th, 2021, hosted by Nick Roome & Barry Kirby.


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welcome to human factors. Cast your weekly podcast for human factors, psychology and design.

Hey, what's going on everybody? It is episode 221. We are recording this live on October 7th, 2021. This is human factors cast. I'm your host, Nick roam. I'm joined today again by Mr. Barry. 

Hello, good morning as it is in the UK. And thank you for having me on yet. Again, surely you've got to get, 

I'm not getting sick.

I love having you on the show. Uh, speaking of the show, we got a great show for you tonight. We're going to be talking about using augmented reality in space for repairs. And later we're going to answer some questions from the community about putting school projects on LinkedIn. The difference between contracted and permanent positions and approaches to starting a new project to improve some skills.

But first, just to go over some, uh, programming notes or community updates, uh, this one's an exciting one for me. Uh, we now have human factors minute available outside of Patrion for the first time ever. Now you can get human factors. Minute in Spotify, we have all 84 episodes they're available for you.

And if you're unaware, human factors, minute is a separate podcast that we do that breaks down little chunks of human factors in one little minute bits. So you can, uh, get your kind of human factors fixed for supporting the show. Uh, we'll update that on Spotify with the same cadence as our patrons, of course, you could always pay one penny more and get access to a Patrion stuff like patrons, choose the news or weekly Q and A's are full audio versions of the podcast, which include a pre and post show we do every week.

Uh, I'll put a link to the human factors minute and Spotify. And the description of this episode and Patrion is also down there. Uh, also for programming notes, uh, HFCs 2021 was this year. We usually pick up a lot of folks around conferences. And so we just want to welcome everyone who might be new to the show.

Welcome all you new listeners. Uh, if you were at the event, we'd love to hear from you to kind of hear about your experience the first time in person since 2019. Uh, so, you know, uh, go to our website, leave a voicemail. There there's a little microphone in the bottom right-hand corner, or you can go to, you know, we'll leave a link in the description for a voicemail.

We're going to do coverage on HFCs 20, 21, a little later this month, there's a virtual, there's an in-person session, which happened this week. And then there's a virtual session that's happening a little later out in the month. And we're going to try to do our conference coverage to cover both sides of things.

We have, uh, some folks from our lab that went in person. Uh, we know some people that went so we can kind of get in touch with them and see how it was like a boots on the ground, so to speak. And then kind of from the, uh, From the perspective of the virtual event, which I will be at. Uh, but with that, uh, I think it's time that we get into

human factors news. Yes. This is the part of the show where we talk about everything related to the field of human factors. Very what's our new story this week. 

So this week we talked about the new, old, new augmented reality applications that assist astronauts repaired the space station. So often communication delays between the ISS and the ground, nearly unnoticeable, but as NASA prepares to explore the moon and eventually Mars NASA is developing tools to increase astronaut autonomy, to operate the spacecraft or systems without assistance because communication delays from the earth will last longer.

So the T2 augmented reality, T2 AI project. Uh, station crew members couldn't inspect and maintain scientific and exercise equipment critical to maintaining crew health and achieving research goals without assistance from ground teams. Astronauts in this case were tasked with maintenance for one of the space stations, crew pieces of exercise equipment, the T2 treadmill, the inspection procedure is typically available as a PDF document access on a computer or a tablet, which can be hard to hold whilst operating tools or flashlights or examining equipment in tight spaces.

This time, no extra handheld instructions or communications with the ground teams when necessary, since all the information was in plain sight that were utilizing Microsoft HoloLens, augmented reality goggles, which had step-by-step guidance and cues to assist the work without referring to a separate screen.

These are made available for them to use. And this project kicks off in April, 2022. So, what do you think about that? 

I love any story that has to deal with augmented reality. I also love stories that involve space, and this is a perfect kind of confluence of them. Uh, so there's a lot of things to love about this article and I think we'll, we'll break it all down.

Um, you know, I think we should talk probably about human factors issues in space and which ones apply to this specific context. Uh, maybe some general background on augmented reality. We talk a lot about virtual reality on the show, but I feel like augmented reality mixed reality kind of gets, uh, kind of the bucket kicked a little bit.

And so we'll, we'll do that and then we'll get into the discussion, but I want to get your initial thoughts on this article. What do you, what are you thinking? 

So. It's really taking some, some of these issues that, uh, are going to be really pertinent, particularly for the Mars, for the Mars missions, that the, the really every, every film you see, every live stream you see from no matter who's launching that, that link between what goes on in the spacecraft and, um, and the ISS and, and the ground stations is so interlinked that they procedurally that one.

Can't, it is one can't do anything without the ground control, um, uh, you know, give them permission, given them that, uh, that giving them that push forward and also checking and rechecking what they're doing, because it is a safety, critical environment. You make a mistake there, and that's, that's a bad day in the office, so, well, Having this sort of technology there that, that they can, they can test, they can, um, put together, that's going to give them the right sort of cues to do the right side job.

And basically the actors that, um, that, that, that second set of eyes effectively making sure that they're the, the, the procedures are being followed properly and having the right information that on, on the first instance is brilliant. Now it's something it's not particularly new in a certain, in that, in, in, in some respects, because there are projects that are going on in, you know, on earth that, uh, that are doing some of that.

So seeing some of that applied up there is really, really good. The second bit is I think really, really cool as well, using the, using that headset and that augmented, augmented reality in of itself to basically reduce their workload. They're not having to hang around with PDF documents or tablet or whatever the information is, where they want it, where they want it, where they need it, um, overlaying the, the job that they're doing and therefore freeing up their hands to actually take, do the job.

On the, on the face of it, you could see that this is actually a really simple thing, but I can see exactly what, the way that the space works. This is going to be a real step change in the way that they can carry out their missions. 

Oh yeah, for sure. Uh, so, so let's, let's actually talk about some of the human factors issues in space, just kind of general issues, right.

Um, you know, you mentioned it, uh, kind of briefly there they're dealing, especially with maintenance tasks right now, you know, they have PDF pamphlets that might float away from them as they're trying to do the thing. Uh, and so, you know, thinking about, uh, Basically, I have a list here of, of a bunch of different stressors that the human might encounter in space.

And there's a couple, I think that apply more specifically towards this context. So if you're thinking about like physical stressors, obviously there's, there's micro gravity, right? There's the whole navigation issue of how do you move your body and, and, and make sure that it is moving in the way that you want it to in micro gravity, because behaves differently than you would, you know, on planet earth here.

Um, and so, uh, there's the physical, uh, side of it. There's also habitat you're, you're in this kind of environment where you might have vibration noise and lighting, um, that is distracting in some instances from the tasks at hand. Right? And so if you're trying to repair something, you might get distracted by a vibration or noise that's happening, um, you know, around you and, and especially because on the ISS.

Uh, a lot of astronauts have a set plan of tasks that they need to get through in a certain day. And so they might be working, um, in closer proximity to you and their task might not, you know, it might distract you from yours. Uh, so you have that to deal with, you have the psychological stressors of workload.

You mentioned workload, especially when it comes to a repair task, right. Managing, uh, sort of what comes next. What did I already do, where all the pieces and parts, uh, and, and kind of the cognitive workload of actually putting this thing back together, and then, uh, you have interpersonal stressors, which, you know, generally on board, the ISS, they, they select astronauts that will get along with each other.

But I mean, there, there still can be those issues of, you know, uh, personality, clashes, culture, lack of privacy, those types of things. And I don't think that necessarily impacts the task at hand so much, but you do have those issues potentially when you're dealing with somebody from mission control, if you know, perhaps they are seemingly bossy to you when they're just trying to tell you what to do.

I mean, you know, thankfully the vetting process for astronauts is a little bit more rigorous than, uh, you know, getting a cashier at, at a, at a grocery store to, you know, so, so there's less probably interpersonal problems that you might deal with on that level, but still something that you have to consider, uh, physiological stressors.

So, you know, vestibular problems you're moving around in space. Uh, and then you have performance stresses, which I think is, is kind of, um, the big one here. And this is more for things like spacewalks and, and we can. Think about maybe what the future of this holds at the end of this, but you know, you have these performance, uh, stressors like disorientation, especially if you're outside.

Um, you know, there's a big blue marble looking at you and you have the space station, but that's all you have for cues as to whether you're up or down. You have visual illusions going on, uh, attention deficits, psychomotor problems, proneness to error. And so all of these are critical. Like you said, mission critical when it comes to repairing things on the space station.

I'm glad they're starting with something. Uh, not necessarily unimportant, but not mission critical. They're starting with the treadmill. Uh, any comments on, on these stressors in space? 

Yeah, I think it's, I mean, for me, the two big hitters have to be the, um, the microgravity piece and, and the workload, because when we're talking about maintenance tasks, so you've, there's obviously two different types of maintenance.

You've got your, you know, um, just general bookkeeper of something, but then it's repairing something when it goes wrong. And so that inherently gives you a whole lot of stress. Cause generally something goes wrong. You weren't expecting it to go wrong. You're having to fix something. And yes, the, um, the treadmill might not be, you know, the most critical key part of equipment, but if they don't get on the treadmill, um, do their exercises once a day, they lose bones and bone density.

And, and so actually the, the long-term consequences of not having such a piece of equipment could be quite key. So actually if they don't, I can just sort of see that having more, more stress on you. Because you're have to deal with bits of bits of kit, and they'll go on to maintaining more, uh, more critical bits of kit that, that could give you a, a level of, uh, workload and stress that you, um, that you weren't anticipating.

But also microgravity can ha can play, um, W with you with the amount of force and talk, you put into tightening things up, and it actually could this, and I'm, I'm, I'm asking the question. I don't know that the, truly the answer, but could this augmented reality give you, um, better cues about when things are tightened up enough, as opposed to over tightening things and under tightening things.

Um, and, and, and that type them type of cues to make sure you're you are taking out the right, uh, the right equipment the other bit as well. Is that is, it'd be interesting to see how the complimentary side of it works. So it identifies right. You need to take off this side panel, you take the side panel off and does it then confirm, confirm with you that, um, yes, you've taken off the right side panel.

Well done, thumbs up, um, or a bit of your time you've taken you've unscrewed the wrong screw type type of affair. Um, So it'd be interesting to see how in that display, they, they push them cues towards you, um, in a more of a nudge idea. So you're there, you're on, they're nudging you on the, on, down the checklist as opposed to, um, stressing you out by using it.

So, um, yeah, I think, I think that side of it's quite exciting. I think some of these cues that you've, um, highlighted, we can actually be some, some of them are really good for highlighting the fact that we should be reducing some of that stress. Um, as opposed to, you know, I do get a bit pessimistic and some things that add stresses, but actually we would like to think that, you know, some of the performance stresses might decrease because you're not having to do quite so much.

You don't have to hold three things with only two hands. 

Yeah. So one more note from Mateo in the chat here, you know, he says that the tasks that these astronauts do are really strictly plans, especially for sleeping, eating exercise, uh, and especially given sort of the circadian rhythm, uh, sunset sunrise happening every 90 minutes while you're in orbit.

Uh, so these are also things that you have to consider, uh, sort of what those physical stressors, uh, I do. You, you kind of, um, gave me a perfect segue and then I backed up, but let's talk about the augmented reality side of things, because I think there there's a lot of things that we can bring in from industry as to what's going on right now, or kind of how the industry thinks about using augmented reality as a tool for maintenance and repair.

And, um, you know, I think there's kind of a couple key pillars here, right? There's identifying, uh, equipment or, or sort of bits and pieces of equipment. Um, and then there's also identifying problems with that equipment. And that's kind of, I think a little bit further down the line here with, uh, at least where this specific context is, right.

This, um, on the ISS, uh, there's also sort of retrieving that relative relevant, um, augmented reality information about those parts and pieces. And then there's sort of the augmentation itself of, uh, the, the feed that you're seeing through your glasses in real time. There's that part of it? Uh, so, so let's kind of go through these one by one, right?

Identifying the equipment and the parts and pieces that need to fit together or come apart in order to fix this thing. So you can imagine, you know, you might give an object, a subtle glow as, you know, this piece needs to be removed or this piece needs to be tightened more. Um, and you can use color coding.

And as long as that color coding is salient and understood, right? Green means good to go. Red means it's nowhere near where it should be. Yellow means you're getting close, especially with something like tightening a screw. That could be a good application. Um, having augmented reality on your head, uh, basically augmenting your vision.

Hands-free this is going to, uh, open up a world of possibilities, especially when you think about, um, sort of access to what needs to happen. Right. Uh, and so it basically makes all this easy hands-free this data is readily available at your eyeballs. And, uh, you know, in terms of maintenance and repair, uh, this can really have a large impact.


Right. I mean, the, some of the cute things I keep thinking could really do is if you've got something with, um, you want to make sure that a piece of equipment is, is exactly the right one. So it might have its own QR code or its own, you know, its own serial number and the ability for not only for you to check that you've got here, but actually the system could check that for you as well.

Um, you know, you, you shot the QR code to go. It was a retreat retrieval tech, uh, check, and it gives you a big green tick to say, yes, it's not only it looks right, but it is actually the right, the right piece of equipment. Um, the, but also it'd be first to see that also, um, linked with, um, with audio. To see.

So if you get the, um, um, if it's not the right piece of kit, you get the big, uh, um, you know, extra cuing because I think in some, uh, maintenance tasks, you can rely far too much on, on just visual cues. So actually bringing some of that together, um, will be really useful, but really making sure that you, that there's so many areas where, so where the wrong piece of kit or the wrong type of kit is, um, is installed that this could, um, just circumvent so many simple errors, uh, particularly when, you know, operators are tired, they've been working long shifts, um, or repair or repetitive tasks.

Um, so there's, there's going to be, um, a huge step change when it, uh, by using augmented reality for, for identification. 

Yeah. Let's talk, let's talk briefly about, um, displaying that information too, because you can also overlay perhaps, you know, a task list often. Of of the screen kind of out of the way that they can reference is like a, a progress bar almost.

Um, you know, it's a task one, unscrew the panel task to remove the part, task three, identify the new part, task four, place the part in and, uh, fix and part five reattach the panel. And you have kind of this running list of things that you need to do, um, with check boxes that say, you know, whether or not something is completed, walk you through each step and maybe it expands and says, you know, Hey, here's all the pieces that need to go into this task, right.

Sub tasks, if you will. Um, so there's, there's, uh, a lot of really cool ways that you can display the information. Um, and, you know, sort of like these tips or scenario steps, or like you said, voice guided, those might actually be really helpful for trying to do something that typically was just relied on a PDF or maybe even a conversation on, on a radio with mission control, uh, in the past.

Right. So I think, I think there's a lot of, uh, interesting things that they can get from this. Also you have, um, you know, you're, you can collect data as well. If there's cameras on board, you can see what worked and what didn't and improve the system over time. Uh, and that's more like the data science side of things.

Um, I tend to focus more on the human factors application. How do you sort of display this information? How do you make it efficient for the operator? But I think the data side of things is cool to write using QR codes to understand which parts and pieces you're looking at. Uh, how do you get that data?

Uh, where do you store it at all? That stuff is also problems that you'll have to think. Um, especially in a isolated, uh, environment like the ISS and eventually Mars, right? You'll need some data storage for all that stuff. Um, 

and the other really interesting bit about it as well is if we get this right, if this is, if this gets right, then actually it reduces the training burden upon the crew themselves because they won't need to train or how to do every little thing.

Um, there'll be some obscure things or things that maybe they don't need to do very often or no, really no risk stuff that they can have a confidence of going up and having a system like this to guide them. Um, so they don't only need to do it when they're actually having to do the tasks. They don't need to worry too much about overburdening themselves whilst they're on the ground.

Yeah. That's a great point. Uh, and I think that goes for a lot of things, especially. Um, some of those lesser performed tasks, but maybe mission critical. Yeah. Uh, and it could just make the world of a difference when you don't have to train for those things. And you just put on the headset and it tells you what to do in the moment.

Uh, even even displaying information, as simple as like videos, uh, with the headset on that could be, that's like a low form of training, uh, or a lower, lower form of, uh, what I would call instructed maintenance, but it's still effective. Right. It can still be effective if you have, if you're able to watch somebody do the task, uh, and then, and then actually perform the thing, uh, you know, with w when it comes to AR, right.

There's, uh, obviously the functionality of overlaying. Uh, all this information on, on our visual system, but basically, you know, they, they have all this, uh, they have video communications, uh, built into a lot of these devices, right. So, so they could be on the phone with mission control. And, and I think you mentioned this earlier, mission control can actually be watching what they're doing live and walk them through it.

Uh, and they can consult experts live in that moment, uh, via a video call and, and, you know, here in low earth orbit, that's, that's possible when it gets to Mars. That's a little less possible because of the lay, uh, between, but I think, you know, you test it close by and then, you know, eventually it'll, it'll work its way out, uh, once that's kind of proven itself.

Um, I think you mentioned speech detects too, which could also be used. 

Yeah, I think anything to enable them to do the sort of that hands-free note-taking, hands-free record-keeping, um, that's all, um, really useful because it's interesting that the, actually the use of hollow lens isn't new in the ISS at the moment.

And that was one of the things that I think, um, confused me in the pre-show was the. That they've actually had, um, the whole lens up there since 2015, but that was all been around what they call the sidekick, which one is, as you say, is the, um, is remote expert mode where the ground operator can see what they're doing and all that.

The, um, the, the second mode, which is a procedures mode, allows them to step through critical procedures, but this, but this particular, um, use of it is the first time they've done it for actual maintenance, um, which. I think it just shows that we, that it's really stepping on to, on to new new territory.

It's, it's, they're trying to push the boundaries of where this technology will go. And, and as you say, if we are going to get to Mars, which is, um, certainly if they want anybody for a Mars mission, I'm definitely front and center, and I'm quite happy to, uh, to do that just as a small, um, avert there. Um, not that I'm fit enough, light enough for anything like to do it, but I'm very keen.

Um, but if they, if, if you're going to have more and more essentially novices in space, um, and the ability to. People and potentially civilians who might have to carry out maintenance, um, or any sort of activities. Um, the only way you can really do that with any sense of, um, confidence is by having these types of systems.

So they're going to be, they're going to feature massively, um, as long as they, you know, the experiments like these are the doing at the moment proves that they can actually effectively work in that, in that environment. 

Yeah. Those are great points. Uh, and in fact, you, you brought up a good one is that the HoloLens has been on the international space station space station since 2015.

And in fact, we actually did an interview with one of the human factors, prize winners from HFCs, uh, back in 2018, Adam Brawley, he actually talked us through, uh, what it means to use the hollow lens on the ISS. So go listen to that interview, if you haven't already, uh, I will say, you know, taking a step back, let's look at some examples of augmented reality repair maintenance in industry, right?

Companies like Bosch, uh, repairing automotive vehicles, uh, and, and some of the metrics around these are really impressive, too. Right? So you have this 15% fixed time decrease for simple car repairs. Uh, you have, Walway repairing DC to AC solar power inverters, uh, reporting a significant decrease in technicians, cognitive load, and a service time decrease.

Um, and you know, in industry it's a little bit more, uh, challenging because you have sort of these pushback from employees trying to get used to this stuff. But, uh, ultimately it, it. The results kind of show themselves, right. They, they have, uh, good results here. And, and I think, you know, this is the future and, and the ISS has kind of a good test bed for this kind of technology.

Yeah, it is. I mean that the employee resistance, I think is, um, is a really, it's something we it's a hurdle we've got to get over. We've uh, I've encountered that with trying to push new technologies into things like the military domain in particularly into specialist domains, where only you've only got a few specialist operators can do job X, Y, Z.

And I think, um, you know, astronauts just fall into that. You know, it's a very, it's a very tight skill. You have to be a very good, you know, fast jet pilot before you go and do it, et cetera, et cetera, and where I've seen some new technologies come in and to make people's lives easier. They are, they kind of have a reaction to withhold on that.

Very complex job was my job. And I'm the only person who knew how to do it. You're putting. And actually where really what we're doing is no, it it's, it's not, you know, we're trying to help you do, you know, make your job safer. We're trying to free you up to do yet more other things. Um, but sometimes they, you know, you can get that resistance cause you think that they're, that you're taking away their specialism, their, their reason for being so, 


I don't know how much else I have to say about this. I think it's really cool to see this move into the maintenance repair domain within the ISS and kind of see it really take off, uh, pun intended. Do you have any other things to add to this story before we kind of get out of here and get to the next.

Well, I think the only thing I would say is that if anybody wants us to go and actually go up to the ISS and see this in action, just for the, you know, just to make sure that our integrity is in the stories right. Then please do give us a shout because I'm free this weekend. 

Yeah. Perfect. Exactly. We'll uh, we'll take it to space.

Uh, I think we got to earn a little bit more Patrion dollars before we can afford a trip up there though. But anyway, uh, anyway, we'll be following huge. Thank you to our patrons this week for selecting our topic. I'm thinking to our friends over at science X network and NASA for our news story this week, if you want to follow along, you can join me on office hours every Monday, where I find these news stories and we do post the links to all the original articles on our weekly roundups in our blog.

You can also join us on our slack or discord for more discussion on these stories. We're going to take a quick break and then we'll be back to see what's going on in the human factors community right after this human, the factors cast Springs, you the best in human factors. News. Conference coverage and overall fun conversations into each and every episode we produce, but we can't do it without you.

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Thank you. As always for paving our way to the international space station, buying us a ticket there, especially our honorary human factors, cat staff, uh, patrons, Michelle trip, uh, patrons. Like you keep the show running. Thank you all so much for your continued support. If you want to become a patron, that's easy for you to do.

Uh, it's it's only a couple of bucks. If you want to get human factors, minute, you can donate as little as a dollar and as much as $300, if that's something that you want to do anyway, with the whole Twitch league earlier this week, I thought it'd be a good time to reveal how much we make. It's not much, it's like $59 a month.

So, you know, we're not making thousands of dollars because some of those streamers are, uh, so with that, You know, that money all gets fed back into the show and we don't make a cent off of it. Uh, I think we're still in the hole. Anyway. I think it's time for us to switch gears and get into this next part of the show.

This is the part of the show where we search all over the internet to bring you topics that the community is talking about. You find these answers useful. Give us a like to help other people find this content. We've got three tonight. Uh, one from the human factors, subreddit one from the HCI subreddit and learn from the user experience subreddit.

So we're getting from multiple communities this week. Uh, this first one here is going to be from daikon is on the HCI sub Reddit. This is how to put school company HCI projects in Lincoln. I go on to write, hello. I am currently an HCI master's program and we have been working with two major companies in one of my classes.

I would like a way to include this in LinkedIn somehow or by extension portfolio. That's me, uh, expanding on that. Is there any way to do this? Uh, or is this not good practice? I'm thinking of adding it under projects, please. Let me know. Barry, have you dealt with this before? 

Um, so yes and no, the I've what I've done.

Um, a project for as part of my degree then yes, I had that. That was part of, um, you know, I had an external sponsor who wanted to play with that. Um, and so we could put that on my LinkedIn. There's a, there's a couple of things to look at if it was just a, just a straight school project that everybody else is doing, um, in your class and nothing will truly makes it unique.

I would suggest probably not. Um, you want to stay away from that. However, this has gone to an extent. Um, a company involved. So there's an element of, they wouldn't be doing that if there wasn't some sort of requirement around it. Um, and so yeah, put it in there as a project. Try not, don't disguise it to try not to make it more than what it is.

So highlight that it's a, it's a joint school company project, um, but also highlight in there as well. Why you think it's, it's different? Why, what you've done is a bit more and it is worthy. The reason for doing that, I think is, uh, particularly you probably won't have many other, uh, projects or, um, you know, examples of your work under your belt at this point.

And one of the things that a lot of companies are always crying out for, and it seems to be a classic and it, it is a bit irritating if I'm honest, where they want people who've just come straight out of university, but we want to have loads of experience 10 years experience. Yes. Um, but also we want to pay you, like you're still in undergraduate, so.

If you've got experiences like this that have a certain amount of validity yes. Put them into, into LinkedIn, um, put them into the product piece and the product segment, and maybe even highlight them under the, under the, some of your career highlights. Um, 

what do you think that, yeah, this one, there's, there's a couple, uh, nuanced things here that I think are important to discuss, right?

There's this person asks if it's a good practice, I think it can be the thing I would caution against is if you've signed an NDA that says you cannot talk about this information, you're going to have to disguise that pretty good. I would still say that you've partnered with. To say that you have that experience, but trying to dance around a specific product that you might not be able to talk about until it's public is going to be difficult.

And so there's a whole skill involved with that. And I think there's plenty of resources out there for how to deal with a portfolio that you can't necessarily share, like working with, you know, in a classified domain or working under NDA there's resources out there. So that's one consideration. Another consideration too, is be sure to be clear about what your responsibility on this project was.

Chances are, if it is. Sort of for a class, there's going to be a lot of people with their hands on this. And so the, uh, what, what was your contribution to it might get masked by that. And so be prepared to speak about your contribution when you talk about this work in an interview or on your portfolio.

And I think that is a large part of it. Uh, What you share? I would say document everything. Maybe you don't share everything, document everything that you do work on projects with, even if it is just a low level, uh, you know, classroom assignment, right? If it's, I don't know, a task analysis on something document that I wouldn't share, like a task analysis project on LinkedIn as a profession.

Thing, but it's a skill set that you have and you've documented it. And you can talk about it in an interview or, uh, you know, in a, in a situation where you need to prove your knowledge on something. And, and just having that repository of skills is always something that I recommend. Like, I, for example, I still have, when I was in my undergrad, I, I worked with ketamine and rodents.

And so I still have that, you know, kind of in my back pocket. And if that ever comes up, I have that skillset. And I know I do, I can talk about it. Uh, but it's not something that I publicize. Right. It's unless it's in the context of right now. Uh, so, so document everything, because you never know when those skills will come in handy that you want to put on a resume or something like that.

Uh, any closing thoughts on this one? Yeah, 

I think just to follow up what you said there too, um, we, more, when people are looking at this sort of thing on LinkedIn, we're more interested in, in the, how not the what. So, you know, I work a lot in defense and I support them. I have now what can I put on my website that, um, that we can do, but it's more about the skills and the, the, the technologies that we've, that you can use and apply, um, is the key thing really that you want, that you want to get out there.

And I didn't think we'd be talking about ketamine tonight. That's brought me out of different places. 

There we go. All right. So let's get into this next one here. This one's exciting. And this one actually comes from the human factor. Subreddit. I think this is a really interesting point of discussion.

This is contract versus permanent positions. They write, hello. I'm a recent graduate with a human factors, masters and a bachelor in psych bachelor's in psychology with a research focus. I've completed an intern. In medical device consulting have TA graduate courses and human factors, uh, and been a research assistant as well.

I've been applying to jobs broadly. I recently, uh, went and applied to UX research research position that was advertised by a prominent laboratory equipment company in the Northeast USA. This was labeled as a permanent full-time position with benefits 80 K salary. Luckily I was called for interviews. I went through four rounds of interviews with the company and received positive feedback at each gate.

I was asked to meet with the team today to discuss the opportunity available. So I believe I was about to enter, uh, offer negotiations with the employer. However, upon entering the meetings, I was told that I was a star applicant interviewed well, and they wanted me on the team with. The position I applied for was now to be filled internally.

And I would be offered a contract position until December 31st. And right now, as of this recording, it's October 7th with no guarantee of permanent employment beyond that, has anyone experienced this in the job search? Uh, is that, uh, is it that I did not perform well in the interviews despite the good feedback, if they wanted to hire internally, why post the job to external job sites and have me go through interview process only to revoke the position?

I don't know what to think. Like I said, I'm a recent grad, so I'm not sure if this is common practice or alludes to some red flags of this employer. I'd love any insight you may have. Thank you. This one's a long one. Barry. I want to get your thoughts on this. So there's a couple of things here, right?

There's uh, they, they were a star interview. They were offered the position and then they rescinded it because they, or maybe didn't resend it, but they presented the position because they filled it internally. And then let's talk about contract versus permanent positions. I think there's a couple of things there.

Yeah. Yeah. So 

the, the whole position being filled by filled internally that just screams internal company politics. That I wouldn't take that personally, if I was you, that is stuff that happens. I think fairly regularly, it is easier to hire, or it is more beneficial to the company to hire internally. And the might just be so main char drive, or there might be some senior decision that those made that happen.

The fact that they've had really good feedback all the way through and they still want to go with them and have a contract. Until the December 31st, um, that's kind of what they do with that. It's kind of up to them. I've been in that position myself and, um, you know, I sort of did it and I turned it down and I said, if you want me, you want me, um, maybe I was arrogant and young and carefree.

Um, but if it's a job that you, that you really, really like, then actually, you know, if, like I say, it's, it's, it's, uh, October now, couple of months worth of work to show where, you know, that could almost be as good as you were there any way it could give you that, that experience in the grand scheme of things, no job, even with a permanent contract, um, no job is worth more than, um, a month's notice.

So, you know, there is that sort of element around it. Um, So I wouldn't take it necessarily too personally, and I would leave it really much down to you. Would you, do you want to spend two months doing a job that might not lead anywhere else, but he could give you a couple months worth of salary and some more experiences to take you onto, onto that next role.

Um, so that's kinda my thoughts around that, the difference between contractor and Ponant positions. And I think this has slightly different connotations around the world as well. So I've done contract roles I've done, um, and I've had permanent roles as well. And certainly in the UK having the, the permanent positions.

It's great. If you want stability, um, if you want things like your, your holiday, your sick pay, all that sort of stuff, then, um, then that's, that's great. Um, Burnham positions are really good and they give you that feeling of, um, of longevity, whereas contract position. If you, if you can be more, um, more, more mile, if you're wanting to try out different companies, try and work with different projects on a wide variety of projects, actually contracts can be really good.

Um, and they also give you an ability to go and try something and walk away with no, with much less a hard feelings, because contractors are slightly more easy come easy, go. Um, in the UK, we are going through this thing called, um, which everybody will love if you're in the UK called 35, which means that the ability to get contract positions just to do the manpower manpower type roles is much harder.

Um, so they, that is going to become much rarer in the UK, but how does it work over in the U S is any different, uh, 

a little bit let's, let's break this down. So, uh, I, I agree with mostly what you said. Um, and I think let's, let's talk about this piece by piece, right? So, so there's the we're starting interview.

And they still offered you a position and it's for a couple months. And, uh, I think Barry, you actually even changed my mind on, on approaching this because you're right. If this person is just out of college, it's, it's a, it's a great thing to get into, um, at least to start building that portfolio and, and, and getting into industry, getting your hands dirty.

They didn't necessarily say that it would be a continued position, but if you are looking for jobs, you could still look for jobs on top of doing work and getting experience. And I know that's a lot of work, but if you are just out of school, chances are you're young. Not necessarily chances are you're early in your career.

And so you're willing to take more risks. And just because you take the job with one company doesn't mean that you can't keep looking. And so I think that's, that's a good way to think about it, right? You're you're getting your hands dirty, you're getting experience and you're still looking for more and approaching it from that way is something that I wouldn't have recommended before hearing very talk.

So thank you. I would have been like, oh, if you don't have time for me, then don't, you know, is it worth it? No. Uh, but I think you've changed my mind on that. So let's talk about contracted versus permanent positions. Uh, there's a couple of ways this works in the U S you have contracts that hire, uh, individual contractors.

You have contracts that hire companies that have people at them, and then you have sort of these permanent positions. And so, uh, when you think about you as kind of a alone. Uh, freelance contractor. This is the most scary you can get, right? It's there's not that stability, but like Barry was mentioning, there is a lot of variety, uh, and, and you could jump from one project to another sort of build up your experience.

And there's sort of the middle step where if you work at a contracting agency or a human factors agency that accepts a bunch of different contracts, you can jump from project to project and chances are, they'll have something lined up for you that matches your skill set and experience that you can then, um, you know, you'll still bounce from contract to contract, but it's kind of like the middle ground of getting that, uh, you know, the benefits, 401k, all that stuff, uh, at a, at a country.

It's still a little scary though, because your business is still driven by your work. Uh, not like it's not anywhere, but you know, there's a little bit more risk involved than if you were to have a permanent position with like a big tech company that has all of these evident resources that they can keep paying people to, you know, come on anyway.

So, so that I think is a safe middle ground. And then you have sort of the permanent positions where you're very specialized role at a, at a company and you're working on the same product for a very long time. It does offer that longevity. And, um, I think it really depends on where you're at in your career.

I would say, you know, for early career professionals, I'd almost recommend going to, uh, uh, human factors or design agency that accepts a lot of different contracts, getting your experience with, uh, many different types of projects, um, in hopefully different industry. But I think just in terms of, you know, what I would prefer, I, I met a point in my life now I have a young child and a wife that depend on me to bring an income.

So I'm looking for something a little bit more stable. Uh, and so that contract to contract, you know, I've done both. And that contract to contract life is a little bit more risky. Um, and I think we've actually talked about this on the show before, but I mean, as you build contacts, as you make your network broader, there are going to be more opportunities for you.

You know, if, if a contract ran out, there are a bunch of people I could reach out to and say, Hey, I need work. And chances are, they would have something available or they'd make something work because I know people now, right. And that wouldn't have been the case. 10 years ago. So that's something to consider, uh, as you get older, though, you might want to get more in that.

Uh, I don't know. It does depend because if you feel like you have more networks and that's something that you enjoy jumping from thing to thing, then you could totally do that. If you feel like you have enough security or, you know, if, if, um, your spouse is the primary breadwinner or something, however you want to justify it.

Right. I think there's, uh, it's all a calculation of risk and that's something that you need to take into account. But I think in this case, you should totally do it. That's anything else? 

It just made. Listening to the way that you evaluated, where you should do contractor. And I sort of did the other way around because I started off in the big companies and then after I'd had, we'd had a third child and now I decided to go it alone, um, just because I could, after a night out at the pub.

Um, so yeah, that was interesting. Um, but the, the, the only other smaller thing nuance with that is, um, I mean, we were assuming this company is, is quite a large company. And if, and I think that the, this just the whole premise of it, say's that it's, it's, it's, there's internal politics and all that sort of stuff.

If it's a very small company trying to play this trick, um, then walk away, um, that is that, that they are trying to mess you around. And, um, they, they either can't afford to keep you for a, at least a six month period, or they, they don't know quite what they're, what they're doing. So if, if it's very small can be trying to play the trick, then that will, that would send up.

Yeah, that's a good point. All right, let's get into this last one here. Beginner UX project. This one's by a, I love moose on the user experience subreddit. Hi guys. I want to undertake my first project and try to improve my skills throughout the UI and UX process. I want to know if you start a project by thinking of a problem first that needs solving, or if you just carry out user research on existing products to identify problems.

I'm asking because I have my own pain points with certain apps, but I don't know how I would fit the user research around it as the problem would be defined already. Um, in the case that I find my own problems, do I first present my personal pain points in the project and then try to justify it through user research?

If not, how would you suggest I go about starting the UX project in this case? So I'm sensing a couple of questions here. There's one. How do I approach a project? Um, how do I build my skills and how do I sell what I've done? Right. I think those are kind of the three major questions here. Barry, take it away.

I was kind of hoping you wouldn't do that. It's interesting because I interpret this as they are trying to develop their own skills and they want to be able to have a project and therefore to use as almost a showcase so that they can do their skills. Um, so fundamentally you go with what, you know, if you know that there is, so there's two things you can do, you can add it to start a project from scratch.

And so that would be the equivalent of a client walking in or a customer walk in and say, I need one of these. I don't know quite what it is. Um, but I, I need. Piece of this app or there's something that does X. And so then you're going to go and do that, um, that research as you into, right. Um, the exploration with that with the client.

And if you think, you know, effectively you're the client at that point, you know, start sketching out, you know, what, what, what the, what, what they're trying to achieve, what the requirements are, et cetera, et cetera. You want to do something so that, that is showing you how you would launch a project, how you take something from scratch and develop something from, um, from nothing, all the way, all the way through to all the way through, to an app or a design for an app.

The other part of what your, of what's been highlighted is how do you troubleshoot, um, an app, um, or whatever it is say, it's an app in this case. And so how do you evaluate what is already there? How do you get the client feedback? Sorry. The user feedback into what other people pain, pain points are just because, just because we use operators or just because we use.

Um, ATF experts see pain points that we would identify doesn't necessarily mean that the, that we write. Um, I'm normally right, but not all of our HR practitioners are right all the time. Um, and so it's, it's about, so that that's, that is a different skill. It's a different ability to be able to go and see what somebody has to produce, break it down into things like cognitive walkthroughs, et cetera, et cetera, work out what it is at that, that, that app was there was created to, um, to create created, to do.

And does it meet that need? And also has the, uh, as the focus shifted is, is does the app was created, do one thing, but does it now fulfill another function? Um, and therefore could be grown in that way. Um, So you, but you want to choose projects. You want to choose them sort of things that develop your own skills.

So identify a bit of self reflection is needed. So where are you? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? Um, what, what do you need practice in doing practice? The stuff that it's, it's easy to go in and say, um, actually, I'm very good at this. I'll do another one of these. And we'll write that up and look and show how great I am.

It says task analysis or something like that. Find stuff that you don't like doing. Um, but if, if it's for your own stuff, make, put yourself into an uncomfortable position, um, and flex those uncomfortable muscles because they will become big and strong. 

Yeah. Let's. I want to talk about this because this, this is such an interesting question and, and something, I know a lot of people struggle with, especially as they are starting their careers off and they want to develop things for their portfolio.

And I think there's two ways of really approaching. How do you select a project for you? Like a pet project for you to work on that you can use for your portfolio? And I, I see it two ways, right? There's one you are embedded into a community already, like let's say it's for a video game or something. With a very vocal community, right?

I I'm using video games as an example because those communities typically are very vocal about what they want and the development teams may already be working on those things. But it's something that you can, uh, at least back with data that is a user requested feature function or whatever you want to call it.

Uh, and so, you know, spending time on sub-Reddits about a specific game and saying, Hey, this would be a million times better. Then you go back and you source all those comments and say, here's the problem space. Here's the users that are defining this problem space. Uh, and I'm going to go out and solve it, whether it's a design for product, and I wouldn't have access to the source code or anything like that, but you can at least design a solution that would be based on user feedback.

And I think that is probably the most sound. Way of approaching a problem, because then you have that user data to back your claim that this thing needs fixing. There's the weaker argument of, I don't like how this functions in this app. And therefore I am going to fix it to match my own needs because that's not user driven.

That is you driven. And you know, like Barry said, you can be right, but you don't have that data to back it up. And especially if you're earlier on in your career, you might want to have, uh, that, that user data to say, look, I went out to the community to see what was going on with this thing. There was a problem that needed solving and I solved it.

That's kind of the approach that I would take if there's, you know, a product that you're passionate about, browse the forums, browse, whatever, because there's probably someone complaining about something. And, uh, sometimes even. We'll have, uh, you know, these, these, uh, help tickets that say, I want this feature or feature requests, and a lot of times there'll be voted on.

And so you can see how many people want that thing. And that's, that's a great starting point for projects, um, exploring those products, right? So like, I think discord even has them, right. You, you can have, like, I want this integration with this tool. What does that look like? Well, you can go out and solve it, uh, or at least what it might look like final product.

So I think that's a good way of approaching it. Um,

and then, and then talking about your work as a whole separate thing that we touched on a million times, I don't, I think that's a separate question. I don't know anything else to add to this one. 

Yeah, just processes. Um, it's not, again, we kind of touched on it earlier. It's not about the output in this case.

It's about you having the skills to be able to go through, um, to go through the right process processes, to show that you've got the experience and competence, so make it all about. 

Yeah, I agree. Uh, all right, let's get into this last part of the show called one more thing. It needs no introduction. Uh, it's just where we talk about one more thing, Barry, what's, what's your, uh, one more thing this week?

Well, last week I had a limb chopped off or felt like chopped off, whereas when WhatsApp and Facebook and LinkedIn and, um, messenger all went down and it was really weak. Cause it was the first time I've been away, away on business in hotel. Um, you know, since the, since the pandemic and I was going to a new client site and all this sort of stuff, and I was very excited and, um, chatting to my better half and that, and then suddenly everything started to go down and it was really interesting, um, a thought from that perspective, but it's.

A lot of P a lot of companies in particular have been using WhatsApp as a primary means of communication. And the amount of in the UK, we had the practitioners in our national health service and things that I can't talk to the rest of our teams because what's ups down or they, a lot of companies are not having the redundancy in place thing, you know, cause they're out or the, um, communication channels out there that we've come to rely on one group of instant messaging or messaging tools and, um, things together, um, to make that work.

The other interesting bit about it was that, uh, when it come to light about what had happened is that Facebook used Facebook for absolutely everything. Um, the. The way that they had to solve, it was literally going to get a guy with a, um, uh, an angle grinder because the, the, the, the server rooms were locked because they used Facebook to lock the doors and do all that sort of thing.

And so at the end of the apartment, you use an angle grinder to get in, to be able to re to reset everything. Um, yeah, so it, uh, a lot of people had a lot of pain and felt like they, um, they they'd had a part of their consciousness ripped away for a whole six or seven hours or whatever it was that it was.

Yeah. It's, it's, it's interesting how different parts of the world reacted to that? Because I'd say about half the states were like, oh my gosh, I can't do anything. I can't get, I can't read about the microchips and vaccines, um, or anything like that. And the other half was like, oh, Facebook is now. Uh, and I was definitely in the, oh, it's down.

Okay. But I mean, it's, it's incredible because you're right. WhatsApp is used, uh, worldwide and it's especially used for international communication a lot of the time, because there's not any of the like fees associated with using your cell phones or anything like that. So, uh, yeah, it's, it's a huge deal.

Uh, despite me saying, oh, it's down and I didn't even realize. So, 

um, there's an interesting, other knock-on as well was so I use telegram quite a lot. And, um, and obviously then most people then jumped on Twitter, um, and them systems started to quake. Because of the increased usage though, Twitter, I think played an absolute blinder, um, in some of their social media coverage, because whoever was on their social media desk, that night deserves a metal because some of the stuff that they were pumping out and a lot of the other companies were jumping on board as well.

Um, so some of the threads that you, um, that, that are on there are, well-worth a, um, going back and having a look at it. Cause there was some absolute stars. 

Oh, oh man. Yeah. It was, it was a crazy week for tech, right? Because that happened what, Tuesday, Monday it happened earlier this week. Yeah. And it was, yeah, it was Tuesday night.

And, and for you and Tuesday morning for us, and then Wednesday, you had the big Twitch leak, uh, that, you know, revealed salaries of all these popular streamers and um, huge data compromise. It's, it's a pretty big deal. And so like it's been a crazy week in tech, but yes, I agree that the person who writes the Twitter recaps is, uh, definitely needs a promotion.

I think they've done a great job. 

Um, your what's your one more thing 

this week? Yeah, my one more thing is this, um, it's this little indie television show called squid game. Uh, I don't have you heard of it? 

I've heard of it. I watch one episode of it, but it was one of the things that, um, I sort of have had it on the background and I think I need to give it some, I need to give some love.

I need to actually watch it properly. I can't just watch out the corner of my eye. So have you, have you been watching it? 

So I finished it. I'll try to avoid spoilers as best I can. I won't spoil it. Don't worry. Um, if not, just get ahead like three minutes or something. Uh, I promise I won't spoil it, but you never know.

Anyway, so we've been watching this because. You know, my wife mentioned it to me and she said, it's a lot of people have been talking about it and I hadn't heard about it. Um, probably because I had been like off of my news apps for like a couple of days and apparently it's this big worldwide phenomenon.

Uh, everyone's excited about it. Um, and I thought it was okay. And, and there's like a lot of hype around it. I thought it was okay. It was, it was good. Um, and, but my, my wife had given me the heads up. She said, it's like she said, it's like a battle Royale. And you know, that's all I needed to hear for me to tune out immediately or not tune out immediately.

I was tuned in, but to shut myself off emotionally from the characters and put it that way, um, because. Certain characters die. And, uh, I don't think that's a spoiler it's revealed in the first episode that a lot of people, so certain people die. And I, I intentionally distanced myself from those characters from, from everyone, because I was like, if I don't, I'm going to be an emotional.

And, you know, and sure enough, my wife didn't and she was an emotional wreck anyway, uh, all that to be a warning. If you watch squid game, don't get invested in the characters. Um, I think that will serve your emotions or, you know, what do it, I don't know. Emotion is human. So do what do, what you, what you want.

It saved me some, some tears though. I will say that. 

Fair enough. So did you, we, if she was an emotional wreck, did you do the whole comforting thing and make sure she was okay? Or did you, were you more of the totally. So you shouldn't go in with 

that one? I was, I was more gloating. I was like, you know, I'm really glad I didn't get emotionally invested.

Look at you. You're a mess. Uh, I love my wife. Don't get. That's 

not the way to get the hair. Do you realize that it is not just a personal advice here having, you know, for however many years we've been married? I should know that. Um, I I've, I found out a while ago. That's not the way to get ahead in life.

Yeah, no, 

I know it was, it was more of a playful thing. No worry. Uh, anyway, I think that's going to be it for today. Everyone. If you liked this episode, we do invite you to check out our interview with Adam Brawley from HFCs 2018, where we talked to him about his human Packers prize research on using augmented reality, aboard the ISS and comment, wherever you're listening with what you think of the story this week for more in-depth discussion, you can join us on our slack or discord communities.

You can always visit our official website, sign up for our newsletter, stay up to date with all the latest human factors news. If you like what you hear, you want to support the show. You can leave us a five-star review. Tell your friends about us or consider supporting us on Patrion or even human factors, man, it's now available everywhere on Spotify.

It's kind of out there anyway, as always links to all of our socials on our website or in the description of this episode. I want to thank Mr. Barry Kirby for filling in again. Where can our listeners go and find you? They want to talk about augmented reality. 

You can find me on Twitter, BA Z underscore K, or you can find me on the 12 or two human factors podcast, and any podcast directory, new you 

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Thanks again for tuning into human factors cast until next time .

Barry KirbyProfile Photo

Barry Kirby

Managing Director

A human factors practitioner, based in Wales, UK. MD of K Sharp, Fellow of the CIEHF and a bit of a gadget geek.