Human Factors Minute is now available to the public as of March 1st, 2023. Find out more information in our: Announcement Post!
Aug. 19, 2022

E255 - I've had it with these HF robots on this HF space station!

This week on the show, we talk about how a surgery-performing robot Is ready for tests on the International Space Station. We also answer some questions from the community about frequency of travel for researchers, getting access to people for interviews, and what matters most for junior positions.

Check out the latest from our sister podcast - 1202 The Human Factors Podcast -on Authoring HF books with Robert Bridger:



It Came From:


One More Thing:


Let us know what you want to hear about next week by voting in our latest "Choose the News" poll!

Vote Here

Follow us:

Thank you to our Human Factors Cast Honorary Staff Patreons: 

  • Michelle Tripp
  • Neil Ganey 

Support us:

Human Factors Cast Socials:



  • Have something you would like to share with us? (Feedback or news):


Disclaimer: Human Factors Cast may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through the links here.


Welcome to Human Factors cast your weekly podcast for Human Factors Psychology and Design.



Hello, everybody. This is episode 255. Believe we've done that many of these things. We're recording this live on August 18, 2022. This is human factors. Cast I'm your host, Nick Rome. I'm joined today across the internet by Mr. Barry Kirby. Hey, great to be here. How are you doing? I'm good. I'm trying to do a little bit more performance here. Oh, my God. Look at that. Yeah. All right. Hey, we're messing around with video. We got a great show for you all tonight. This week on the show, we're going to be talking about how a surgery performing robot is ready for tests on the International Space Station. We're also going to answer some questions from the community about frequency of travel for researchers, getting access to people for those interviews, and what matters most for junior designers. But first, Barry, what's the latest over at Twelve two? We've just had to go live. We have a lot of people who author Human Factors books. We use human factors books. They're a staple of what we do. They're always on the end of your desk. But I've always been quite intrigued about what makes somebody get up and actually think, I'm going to write down what I've learnt and what I've done throughout my career and produce a book. Because some people just churn out books. It's incredible. I struggle to churn out just a simple report. So we had an interview with Robert Bridger, who was a past president of the CIHF, and he's produced a number of books now. And so he gives a real insight into not only the process behind him publishing books, but also the differences between publishing with a publisher and doing self publishing. So it's really interesting. So if you want to hear more about how to publish books, then go and head over there. I love hearing about books. But we know why you're here. You're here for the news.



Barry, can you please do the Santa Jackson imitation here with the title of this episode still part of the show where we talk about human factors news. Barry, what's the story this week? You get the title reference, right? No, not at all. If we talk about this in a preshow instead of messing around, then we could have cued this sort of thing up. Anyway, the story this week is about surgery performing robot, and it's been ready for tests on the International Space Station. A surgery performing robot is ready to be tested aboard the ISS in 2024. The robot called Myra, M-I-R-A which stands for Miniaturized In Vivo Robotic Assistant, and can be operated remotely by a surgeon as a noninvasive way to perform medical procedures in space. The virtual incision Myrap platform was designed to deliver the power of a mainframe robotic assisted surgery device in a miniaturized size with the goal of making robotic assisted surgery accessible in any operating room on the planet. Working with NASA aboard, the space station will test how mayra can make surgery accessible even the most far away places. So whilst the right of the ISS is a huge step, meyer won't be slicing out into astronauts aboard the ISS just yet. The robot will instead be operating inside a locker that's about the size of a microwave, cutting tissue analogs and moving rings along a wire. Over the next year, the team will write the robot software and conduct tests to make sure that the robot survives the launch to the ISS. The previous tests of this included retired astronaut Clayton Anderson controlling Myra from 900 miles, which is 1448 km across the Earth, and the successful removal of colon tissue in procedures conducted by surgeons. So Nick, how would you feel? Would you be willing to be operated on from 384,400 km away, which is obviously the distance between the Earth and the moon? I think that would be my only option. So, yes, if I was on the moon, the answer would be yes. This, to me, the story reminds me immediately of a line that Joe Keebler brought up during our interview where we talked about the human factors in Ergonomics healthcare symposium. He actually mentioned almost the very exact thing is one of the future problems of human factors in health care. So I'm excited that we get to talk about it on the show. He was talking about it specifically in terms of deep space flight and robotic surgeons that would have to do it themselves. Not necessarily telepresence or anything like that. But to me, this is an awesome story. I think there's a lot of really interesting human factors things that go into this. I can't wait to dig into it. Barry, what is your initial reaction to this story? Yeah, I think I'm very much along the same vein. It's amazing technology and it is something that is essential for us, for us to develop, not only for the springboards, for the lunar, bring it all back to Mars, my favorite subject. But if we got to go and colonize these sort of areas, we've got to be able to for those people who are going and doing that, they've got to be able to survive. And it's not all going to be roses. There's going to be need for medical interventions. So we need to work out ways for this to happen. But also it helps us here on planet Earth as well, because we do have people who are specialists, brilliant specialists, and the only reason that they can't do some things is because of transport issues, maybe then being on the other side of the world and things like that. So this really pushes the idea of telling presence, telling existence, that type of thing. So. I think it's fascinating. Now, whether it's something I would then feel that comfortable, I'm very comfortable for other people to have this done to them, but whether I would be quite as comfortable when I'm the subject, I think that would be an interesting study in itself. Well, it really depends on where you're at, right? If I was here on Earth, I'd prefer somebody in person, obviously, but if I'm on the moon and it's my only option, of course I'm going to do that. We have a couple of interesting you've done something, Barry, you've gone out and you've actually sourced some comments on this, one of which we've actually had on the show. One person of which, I should say I think what we should do is maybe sprinkle these throughout. So maybe do you want to read the first one here as sort of a comment on the story and then we can get into some of the human factors issues. Come back to more of these later. Yeah, so, like I said, we did try something different tonight. I threw it out there on Twitter and LinkedIn to get basically people's thoughts on what they thought about it, particularly with this. I wanted to throw it out to some of the health community and Dr Steph Komack came back and they're a university lecturer and a former hems, critical care paramedic, self confessed research geek and the Pakistan, but that's a different story. But their comment was, wow, not seeing the Myra, but remote surgery really remote, plus the ability to be autonomous but not AI, question mark comes could be an issue. Depending on where and how it's used, it control the programming. Decision making around its use could be an issue and it depends on the SOPs or standing operating procedures, but they come in to find it super interesting. So thank you very much for giving us that bit of feedback, especially at such short notice. That's really cool. Yeah, maybe we can start talking about that to begin with. Sort of the decision making aspect of it. I think that is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle, especially when, and this is jumping the gun here, especially when you have sort of increased temporal delays and perhaps some of that deep space light stuff. So let's talk about decision making. I think there's a lot of interesting things that are going on here, right? There's sort of a lack of awareness, or can be a lack of awareness of what's actually going on, contextually around the astronaut that will potentially need some of the treatment here. And so that awareness would directly impact the decision making piece. There's also sort of the increased risk associated with the decision making that you need to do in a remote environment like the International Space Station, where there's a lot more on the line than just somebody's life. It's also sort of everybody else's lives in that contained space. I don't know, barry, where do you want to start? Because I thought the decision making would be a good place, but if you want to jump somewhere else, we totally can. I think the decision making is good for me. It's the whole process before you actually get into the operation itself. I think it's the process behind it first. So when you look at the diagnosis so if we run about doing surgery remotely, how do we know that we got the right diagnosis for what we're doing? We almost struggle going to your general practitioner or something to make sure that you've got the proper thing. Is there something around that? You almost need a second and third opinions and I'm sure it's stuff that they're trying to do already because they must have to do that sort of thing, the diagnosis, they just can't do anything about it or do little about it but if you're actually going to literally cut into somebody, you've got to be super sure about what you're doing. So what are the procedures and things that you have to sign off on before that is done? And then you must need to get the platform beat on the ISS or some sort of space shuttle that must have to get because it's really just in any sort of way whilst it's going through a delicate part of an operation, that's not going to be great, is it? So the environment has to be stable, so the platform needs to be stable, so you need to do this, it has to fit in with the whole mission plan to make sure that it fits in that phase of flight and then you get into that whole right, what are the actions on things going wrong? So there's decisions that would need to be made. Prior planning no doubt will come into all of this but if you have a lot of signal so that could be a loss of either loss of visual and audio comms, a lot of the actual control signals controlling the arm, the robot or whatever it is. What the actions on then? Especially if I know we're not talking about open heart surgery at this point, but if you are doing some serious thing and suddenly the machine, does it stop working, does it power down, does it fail safe in some way so it retracts whatever it's doing, which could also be very dangerous. I think there's a lot of things that have to be thought through procedurally about who takes control and when and how and how that works and then the final bit before I should up and let you get word in edgeways is who is in control of the operating theater? Normally. From my understanding. And I'm not an expert in the health domain at all. I am aiming to be because I've hopefully picked up something which would be quite cool. But the idea that at the moment you have people in the room and surgeons. Nurses. People who help clean things up. Et cetera. Et cetera. So there's a whole hierarchy of people in there and whilst they're trying to invent just culture and what they're doing. So everybody's got the opportunity to speak up. There is still somebody in charge. There is a hierarchy generally that's like, my understanding is that surgeon who's operating it tells everybody else what to do. If that surgeon isn't actually in the room, they're three and a half thousand miles away, type of thing, then who's actually in charge of the room and who gives a go no go? Because presumably you still need nurses or some people with nurse training to do all the good stuff that nurses do when that happens. So I think there would need to be a very clear discipline and very clear communication, very clear decision making on who has control when of everything that's going on, not just the operation, but everything that's going on around it. Yeah, I mean, that's a good segue into sort of the environment in which these surgeries or operations would take place. Right. How do you sort of communicate between those two parties where one might be controlling the thrusters on the ISS and one might be controlling other sort of subsystems aboard the ISS that would make conditions better or worse for it? Right. And then how do you communicate between the surgeon and other parties aboard? Is somebody on board watching this to help communicate what's actually happening? And so that whole environmental design and not only that, but you're having to do this in low or zero g where you have instrumentation potentially floating away. And I don't think that'll be an issue because I'm assuming they're all kind of attached to this robot. You can kind of pick and choose what you need depending on the situation. But I think this is a good opportunity to bring in another one of our social comments and this one's by actually friend of the show, Ken Catchpill. He's been on the show before and he's a research practitioner. Go listen to our interview with him. It's great. From healthcare symposium a couple of years ago. He says current issues related to surgical robots, surgeon team, technology, work environment, all have challenges that are rarely considered. Docking and workspace are particular difficulties. Interesting zero g effects, especially with respect to instrument changes, counting, et cetera. What procedures are surgical robots in space going to be assisting with? Are they elective? Are they emergent open versus laparoscopic? Vascular, cardiac, urological, general all have very different equipment and techniques and approaches and design implications. So that's an awesome comment. I think there's a lot to dig into there. We certainly can where are you at, Barry? Yes, I mean, the point that he makes quite rightly around docking and workstations, we sort of assume that they're standard things. You can make that work. But actually, what is that station going to be like back on Earth in order for the surgeon to be immersed in what they're doing? So this is where we get the difference between telepresence and telexistence. So the telepresence being that you can control what's going on, you can see what it sees but you know you're operating something remotely, the telexistence is you almost feel like you are doing the job yourself. So I think we are talking more telepresence and tele existence in terms of the nature of the feedback you're getting and things like that, but that workstation has still got to be fit for purpose for what they're doing. And I've seen some issues around or I've seen some examples of remote surgery, but how this would work to make sure they've got all the views they need to see and all the controls they need to see. On the flip side, on the search, they don't need to be sterile. Does that offer up more opportunities there? Because they don't have to have the restrictions of all the scrubbing and the gloves and all the gear, they can just go and do what they want to do, but would they still maybe want to do something similar to feel like they're being immersed? So we do this a lot with synthetic training, you still go through the steps you would normally go through, whether you're flying live or synthetic, to get you in the zone, as it were. Everyone's working from home now, so I mean, surgeons, no difference, right? Easy done, shorts and a tank top. We just mouse in a keyboard, a few keyboard chocolates. I mean, what could go wrong? Pressing Control and C and Control and B. Exactly the point he makes as well around types of surgery that we're trying to do. I mean, at some point they're not going to be able to do everything. I think in the actual article at the moment they're talking about doing, I think it did say non invasive procedures, but it will get more and more they will have to get there, but at what point and it goes back to your point with the decision making, at what point is it too much? How do you stretch the boundaries of this safely? How do you know what the answer is possible? And the practical is given that you can only practice and test for so long, at some point you've got to have live patience and you'll only know what you can do when you do it. So, yeah, I think can make some really interesting points there and the role stuff, I think from a human factor's perspective, we're going to have to keep on checking through and we're going to have to be involved in every step of the way. Yeah, I want to jump into latency because I think that is another area that I am particularly interested in. There's a whole bunch of issues with latency that obviously as we're communicating to space station, it's not going to be a latency that is unmanageable, is that fair to say? But when you start getting into more of this deeper space flight time delay. If you need a human to make calls right, that maybe an artificial intelligent agent aboard is actually performing the surgery but needs human input, there's going to be that delay time. How do you sustain them if it's a mission critical, life saving intervention at that moment? There's all these other issues that we can certainly go down a rabbit hole with when it comes to deeper space flight. But thinking locally. What that latency would mean is that there's not a one to one control you are controlling and it's on a delay. You would need to and we experience this even with making a podcast on a week to week basis. If there's like a time compression in some of the feed. Then you're operating off of information that's seconds old. And the situation may have changed drastically in that amount of time where you are operating off of knowledge that was a couple of seconds ago. And so, again, this is higher stakes, but it's something to think about from a human factor's perspective. This is minor surgery that we're talking about here. But when we do get towards these larger sort of more invasive surgeries, I can think of like somebody gets injured on a Mars colony or something, they've fallen over and sliced open their leg. I don't know. There's a bunch of other issues that would happen first with that, or amputation needs to happen or something. There's some really terrible things that can happen in space. Go watch any science fiction. But you think about sort of the time delay that you would need in order to accomplish those tasks, and it is significant. You also need to think about, like you said, the environment. Is there a dedicated uplink to that space station in this case? Or spaceship? I would hope so too. But I mean, this is an issue for here on Earth too. If you're doing surgery on somebody halfway across the planet or on the other side of the planet, let's say, then you still need to consider those things as well. If the paying is any higher than something that's noticeable, then there's going to be an adjustment where you need to be able to adapt to those changes in latency. I mean, you can see this when you're playing like online video games. Even if there's lag, it's frustrating because your input is not what is happening on screen. And so imagine that. But with surgery. Yes. Again. Going back to Steph comment earlier about being the use of autonomy. The use of AI. Maybe we are going to have to have a bigger input in that because like you say. Is it the case that the surgeon is going to have to state their intent and the robot completes the work for them because there is no way that they can interact in anything like real time? Is the surgeon then making the decision, stating what it is that they want to achieve and the platform is there, then the operating robot is there to carry out the operation autonomously, which on the one hand will be good in case some of the other issues that we talked about, how do you deal, how do you know that you're in incomes? How do you know that you have signal? What happens on loss of signal? That would solve a lot of that. Brilliant. But also my personal fear factor would be that little bit higher, I think. Yeah, certainly. But if I'm on Mars and needing help, maybe I wouldn't care because as long as I'm getting help then that's good, right? Even if it's minutes apart, right? Yes. We actually had a whole conversation about this. If you go back and listen to our episode on flying a helicopter on Mars, that is a lot of the same latency issues. I don't want to rehash a lot of those sort of arguments or conversations because you can go listen to that episode right now, but a lot of those would apply here as well. The interesting pieces of that conversation that would be worth bringing back up are some points that you have here in the notes, Barry, about what happens if you have a signal failure. What happens if the connection drops? How do you know if you have a stable connection? What are the fallback procedures for when there is sort of a lack of communication or disruption in communication? Those are important things to know and have planned out ahead of time. Because if something does happen where you lose that signal you want at least does the robot disengage from whatever it's doing? Well, it depends on what you're doing in that moment. If you're holding an artery, you might want to not let go of that thing. You're going to need to think about all the possible modes in which this robot that is being controlled by a human could be in and what to do. It's almost like a flow chart, right? If you think about if this then that building logic to say if it's holding an artery, don't disengage. If it is, then if it isn't, then what else is it doing? So that's a whole other conversation. Do you want to add any additional points to that kind of thing? No, but I think the logic tree is absolutely spot on for what this will need to do because it's so in keeping with the stuff we talked about before on autonomous vehicles and things like that. There's a whole bunch of ethical things here as well around you're losing power. Do you power the robot or do you power the spacecraft or all of that sort of stuff. We are going to have to dig into and really make work, but also make sure that these logic trees of safety analysis, this is going to have to have so much safety analysis. It will be well, clearly it's going to be quite good fun to do it but there's going to be a lot of it because it's going to have to be tested and tested and tested and tested because it's not like you're driving your electric vehicle in autonomous mode and it makes a bit of an area. You put your hands on the wheel and take control. Taking control of this is probably not going to be an option in the same way by any stretch of it. It's got to be right before it leaves and then that sort of does push us into the this type of technology is clearly there to support long missions. We already mentioned Mars. Hopefully we're going to be in the next few years colonizing Mars, looking further afield. This is what the technology is going to be to help Go and support their missions. How do you then keep that sort of stuff sterile? How do you keep it safe? Because it's going to have supplies and things that it's going to need. So there's going to be logistical issues around that because it's all very well bringing stuff out already but this stuff is going to have to be bagged within bags within bags to make sure it's super sterile at all times. Now I'm fairly sure that they probably deal with a lot of that stuff already but again, it goes back to that. We sort of touched upon the training that's going to be required to you might not be a qualified nurse, doctor or anything when you're on a space mission but you're going to have to have a more than rudimentary understanding of the type of operations that this thing can carry out and how to maintain it and operate it just to get it up and running. If it's going to be in some sort of box, et cetera, et cetera, then you've got to be able to set it up and make sure that it works. The usability behind that, usability mechanisms, the way that you teach people, the way that it gets set up, that's going to be as simple as possible. It is going to be almost idiots guide, idiot proof to make sure that anybody within the mission team at some point, presumably we're not just sending very trained astronauts up civilian passengers, space tourism, things like that is now a thing. Are they going to need to be able to potentially use these type of things in an emergency situation? Yeah, I was going to jump in and say we're not calling astronauts stupid, that's not what we're doing. We're talking about the usability of these things. But yeah, you're right, we do have to consider the ease of use because as you mentioned, we are becoming a space bearing civilization and so that's something to think about as we sort of expand away from our home. I want to bring up a couple extra things and then maybe we could talk about the last sort of social interaction. Here you put in the notes trust in the machine. And this is a big one that I want to touch on because there's two aspects of this. There's the surgeons trust in the machine is doing the things that it is in fact telling the machine to do. The surgeon also has trust in whether or not that machine is capable of taking over if there is a signal loss, if something does go wrong. There's also the trust from the patient. So does the patient trust this machine to relay those moves by the surgeon accurately? Does the patient trust that this machine is capable of doing the job? These are a lot of different things that we have to think about in terms of communication and ensuring that both parties feel at ease. And there's also a third variable is like decision makers. And there's a fourth variable which is onlookers or other passengers or anyone around in that environment. There's going to be a lot of different parties at play, maybe more than we're actually thinking of because the decision makers at Mission Control need to think about whether or not this is going to be an effective solution to the problem of somebody getting injured. Is it worth intervening in flight or can it wait until they get back down? Especially for some of those minor ones, right? The decision makers are a piece of it. The patient, the surgeon and any onlookers, right? How do you get them out of the way? How do you get them to understand the importance if they are like space tourists, right? How do you get them to understand the importance of what is actually happening here? Somebody's getting operated on. There's just a lot of different things that we have to think about with trust. Do you want to talk about any more about trust? And we should probably get to that third. Yeah, I think actually this is a good time to jump into that final social thought that came in from Harold Thimbleby, who's a professor of social science, professor of computer science. And he says that two of the overlooked HF issues are the unnoticed errors that developers make which induce adverse events and which continue to be ignored during investigation. So there's sort of two bits there where I think really what he's getting at is when the controlling software. The controlling system is created. That there might be developer induced error that just isn't picked up through factory acceptance testing. On site testing and install testing. Things like that. Which is probably fair. I'd argue with that's an HF issue or that is just actually an acceptance testing issue. But the impact of that would be a human factors issue. And then also he does mention investigations, which I think is also interesting, something we haven't touched upon in the fact that this system is going to have to keep an audit trail. It's going to have to. Be the ability to go back and either replay what's happened on both a successful and potentially nonsuccessful operation, because on a successful operation, you need to be able to go back and say, write to your normal doctor, this is what happened to me, and you can see for future medical interventions or medical records, et cetera, et cetera. So that's going to need to be recorded. And for unsuccessful operations, things around so that investigation, what went wrong, autopsy, et cetera, et cetera. So the investigation, so the audit trail, the record keeping is going to be quite key as well. Yeah. And bringing up those errors. I'm going to go back to my conversation with Joe Keebler again, because this is one thing that he kept hammering home, is that it's okay to make errors in medicine and that we need to be sort of more forthcoming about those errors and talk about them so that way we can learn from them. So do you have any other closing thoughts on this one, Barry? I think overall, I think there is so much to be playing with, but none of this is not solvable. All of it by good human factors process, good human factors integration will see us work through all of these different elements. Fundamentally, for me, I think it's exciting. I think this is truly an edge of healthcare stuff. We'll see how it comes out. I just can't wait to see where to go with it next. Yeah, me too. This can be really interesting to see the progression of how it goes from just a little box on the ISS doing small surgeries to something that is involved deep space flight, where it's going to involve really detailed surgeries and really life saving interventions for the people who need it. Yeah, I don't have anything else to add to that other than there is sort of an announcement of the Lunar Gateway here. That's an orbiting lunar outpost that NASA is putting together, and it's international and private partners. It could potentially prompt some more medical procedures in space, which, again, when thinking about some of these life threatening accidents that could happen, is going to be really key. All right, well, thank you to our patrons this week for selecting our topic. And it was close this week. It was really close, actually, between us and a couple of others. And thank you to our friends over at Gizmodo for our new story this week. If you want to follow along, we do post the links to the original articles on our weekly roundups on our blog. You can also join us on our discord for more discussion on these stories and more. Barry, the reference is Snakes on a plane. It's like two thousand s. Yeah, okay. I've had it with these human factors robots on this human factors space station. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be back to see what's going on in the human factors community right after this. Human Factors Cast brings you the best in Human Factors news, interviews, conference coverage, and overall fund conversations into each and every episode we produce. But we can't do it without you. The human factors. Cast Network is 100% listenersupported. All the funds that go into running the show come from our listeners. Our patrons are our priority, and we want to ensure we're giving back to you for supporting us. Pledges start at just $1 per month and include rewards like access to our weekly Q and A's with the hosts personalized professional reviews, and Human Factors Minute, a Patreon only weekly podcast where the host breakdown unique, obscure, and interesting Human Factors topics in just 1 minute. Patreon rewards are always evolving, so stop by Humanfactorscast to see what support level may be right for you. Thank you. And remember, it depends. Yes, huge. Thank you, as always to our patrons. We especially want to thank our honorary Human Factors cast staff patron Michelle Trip. Seriously, everything that you give to the show, we give back to our lab, which increases the quality and production and research that goes into these shows. We seriously couldn't do it without you. There's so much support that we truly appreciate that. To do that, we actually give back to you. So we, of course, mentioned Human Factors, made it a million times on the show. We have other things for our Patreon supporters as well. We have things like full audio versions of this very podcast. What is that? Well, Barry and I do a little preshow and a post show every week. Every week you get an extra hour of Nick and Barry, and so we package that up and send that to our patrons in an audio version. We also do a weekly Q and A that you may or may not know about that is exclusive to our patrons. They can ask us anything, like what's our favorite ice cream flavor? Or how do I solve this complex Human Factors problem at work? We'll answer it. We also have early access to the show. We post that a couple of hours early over there, I mean, like 09:00 P.m. Pacific is when we drop our episodes, but over there, they get it at like, five Pacific or something. So if you wanted a couple of hours early, if you want to listen on the Thursday instead of a Friday, you can do that. And we also have bonus content. Sometimes we'll occasionally get access to other things. So when we did the EHF coverage, barry was so kind to give us all the interviews with the folks in full unedited, and we were able to provide those for you all. We also have exclusive sneak peeks for some things, like when we did our big logo redesign. Anyway, lots of fun things. Barry, you're highlighting bonus content. Why are you highlighting it? I was just messing around by now. Okay. All right. I was like, do you have something to announce? All right, anyway, let's get to this next part of the show we like to call It Came From. Yeah, it Came From. This is the part of the show where we look all over the Internet to bring you whatever the community is talking about. If you find any of these answers useful, no matter where you're watching or listening, give this a like boop, the like button to help other people find this stuff. All right, we got three tonight. We always have three. We aim for three. It works well. This first one here is from the UX research subreddit by Tiny Scientist 2382. They write, how often do UX researchers travel for research purposes? Pretty interested in the fieldwork aspect of UX research, so I wanted to understand how often researchers travel domestically or abroad. How long are these trips? What kind of research methods do you use while in the field? Barry, it depends on we need that. It depends. It really does depend on what it is that we're doing. So I'm primarily defense, which I think most people know. Most of my work is probably UK, so domestic,



if I'm doing some real infield testing, we could be doing some of that. If I'm doing some just straight going to engage with users to get that early opinion stuff. That could be two or three times in a project, but it really depends on the user community. How big is it? How much can you get people from it? So I've worked with all the way from large infantry organizations that you get a lot of people all the way through to specialist vehicles, where you maybe got eight to ten people who can do it, and seven of them are deployed. So you can only talk to one, maybe two the methods, and the Vogel could take that into account because you get expert users and all that sort of bias and influence. Fundamentally, the main method, no matter what method, it largely involves pen and paper. Because if you've got the type of work I'm doing, if you're going out into the field, then the chances of you being able to take really cool measurement gadgets and all that sort of stuff, not only from a security perspective, but also just you in the field is difficult. So you got to be really flexible with what you're doing, but also be able to pair it back and be quite agile to react to changing situations, because what you think you're normally going to normally changes quite rapidly once you get there. Nick, how do you feel from your experience? Yes, it depends. I'm hearing two questions, and I'm going to respond to those two questions based on all the variables that Barry laid out. How often and how long? How often could be anywhere from once a month, once every couple months. What I tend to see as average is maybe once a month for most jobs, maybe twice, maybe once every two months. In terms of duration, this also depends. I know people who have been on naval vessels for weeks, a month, two months, all for use of research. And then I've also known people who have made a quick day trip somewhere to go and talk to somebody on a private jet. So killing the environment, but for user research. So I don't know, weigh that. All that to say, in my experience, you're probably looking at a couple of days at a time, maybe once every couple of months. And that is probably a good barometer for what's average. But I am curious what other people in the field experience. So throw them up in our discord. I'd love to hear those. All right, let's get into this next one here talked about access to users. This one's getting at that. This one's from the UX Research subreddit again by Few Yogurt Closet eight eight five research and interviews. I'm enrolled in a design course and I was wondering how you exposition in a company is in a company or corporate environment. Where will I find people to research and interview? Will I have to find these people myself or is there a database of people willing to be contacted? Perry, where is it? So again, I'll give my perspective well, give my defense perspective on my external perspective. Normally, I guess I find I have user champions or point of contact at least. If I'm working on defense project, I will have a user champion who I can go into. I need to talk to whatever's available, be one or two people. We make the best of what is available. It tends to be quite hard to get a hold of these people. So we will try and do everything we can and get them when it's almost at their convenience because they're doing the day job. When I'm looking at more civilian based things, then again, it really depends on the type of project we're doing. If we do an early intervention stuff, then I tend to be more persona driven really early on. So I will try and capture a few people and then build from that. But again, I'll be kind of led by my client to a certain extent to see if they can get a hold of them. It's rare that I use a database of random people, but I know a lot of other people who do because they do more just straight UI design work. They can have a database of people that are willing to be contacted and engaged with for small fees or bags of chips. Nick, how do you get hold of users in your environment?



Well, it's a challenge, right? It's always a challenge to get access to users, especially when there is some sort of specialized skill set that those users have as they use your tool, product, whatever you're building, like you said, it depends, but it really depends on, I guess, how specialized that skill set is and what the population of people with that skill set is. Right, so Barry's working in defense, he might need somebody who works on a very specific interface, in a very specific ship or whatever, and they're doing a very specific task. Well, that pool is probably like three or four people because they're just on a rotating shift. So you need to go to those three or four people. That can be very difficult unless you have contacts that can get you in touch with those people or the people that are giving them commands and are basically saying, volunteer your time to talk to these people because they're trying to make your job easier. Then you have the opposite end where you're kind of designing for the general public and of course you're going to have personas, you're going to have different user types, but those are fairly easy because you could go to one of those databases, you could just pull somebody off the street and say, hey, you want to make a quick buck? Tell me how this is. And then you have somewhere in the middle where there are specialized skill sets that use your product or are doing a service that you are building or anything like that. This could be human factors as well. And you're going to want to target those people and that's a little bit more difficult. That's not as difficult as getting the four people. Sometimes actually, that can be easier. So if you think about the people that you're trying to get to, it's all about those connections. How do you get to those people and how do you sort of communicate what's in it for them and how do you compensate them for their time? It's a tricky process and there's no one size fits all for it. It's really going to depend on whatever you're working on and what the user skill set is like. Any other thoughts on that one, Barry? No, I think it depended it depended to death. Yeah. All right, we got one more here. This one's by half. O K. Two six three. All those numbers on the user experience subreddit, they write, what matters most for junior designers? And I'm going to extrapolate here and say junior positions. So hiring managers, what matters most when you're looking for junior designers during portfolio and interview? And again, this is kind of junior positions. Well, it depends, isn't it? For me, when I'm looking at junior Rome, I'm looking for enthusiasm, I'm looking for motivation, and I'm looking for a bit of get up and go. Obviously you've got the CV in front of you, etc. That have gone through the initial sifting process. You've got somebody who on paper looks good. What I'm after when I'm actually speaking to them is to get that spark. And I'm not necessarily looking for exact skills at this point because if you're junior, I can't expect you to have I always think it's really unrealistic when you have junior position and I want you to have eight years experience. It's like, no, it doesn't work. I'm not expecting any experience or minimal experience, but what I'm looking for is enthusiasm and keenness to learn and take stuff on and be able to I almost like to see how you're going to fit in the team and that actually goes with any position higher I've got my team. If I had you, what secret sauce are you bringing to the team that I don't necessarily have already and that is junior or senior. So, yeah, I'm looking for motivation, I'm looking for enthusiasm. What do you bring in when you're hiring people? Yeah, look like to me, you're right, the enthusiasm is a sort of major piece of it, I think also



their ability to problem solve, if that's fair to say. Like, I don't care about their skill set so much. There's going to be obviously there's different levels of experience. This is a hard question. Harder question than I thought. I looked at this and said, oh, this will be easy. Junior positions can vary. You can get the people who are coming out of a master's program, but you can also get people who are coming out of a weekend boot camp that are applying and you can also get people who have got like a bachelor's degree. There's varying levels of education, so there's no real equalizer when it comes to a junior position. There's obviously going to be those who have more skills based on the route that they took. Someone who took a weekend boot camp is not going to have as many skills as somebody who has their bachelor's degree. I'm saying skills and practice, not necessarily knowledge. And that goes the same for somebody who's gone through the rigor of an academic environment. Right. They're going to have a different skill set than somebody who's gone a different approach. And to me, it's their ability to problem solve. It doesn't matter what techniques you know, at that point, if you're applying for a junior position, I want you to be able to sort of think about a problem and be able to put your mind to it and think critically about sort of how to approach it and communicate those thoughts. I think the other piece is communication, ability to problem solve, communication. Those are the two things that I'm looking for. Everything else equal, right? Yeah. When I interview. We specifically test for that as well. And I think I've talked about it in previous episodes where we have a specific question. Where we'll come up with we have a specific one and I won't say it on here just in case we do interview somebody who's listening. But we do have it's almost a ridiculous research question and we don't expect anyone to actually get the answer. But what I'm looking for is to say. Think loud. This is a question, what's your answer? And we were expecting them to make some assumptions, make some hypotheses, work through the logic of how to get to the answer and then come to the answer. And if you do that, then I think that's brilliant. We did mention portfolio and I don't think either of us touch on portfolio with portfolio stuff again. I would think about, who is it you're actually going to interview with? Who are you showing your portfolio to? Show the stuff in your portfolio that best fits what they're looking for. If they're looking for broadband to research stuff, then go wild, show everything you've done. If you're going to work for a company that just produces websites for the financial industry, then if you got stuff that fits around that, prioritize that, bring that to the front, but just make it your portfolio is there to prove that, or at least show you've got some ideas that could be applicable to the industry you're trying to go into. And that's me. That's that. All right, well, let's get into the next part of the show. Needs no introduction. It's just one more thing. Barry, what's your one more thing this week? My one More thing? I mentioned before that I've been doing a beginner's artery course. Well, yesterday or Robin Hood in the UK is probably applicable, but now I've now finished that I got called competent. They think I'm actually competent to use this weapon of destruction. And it's been a six week course, it's been absolutely brilliant, I totally enjoyed it. What I found most valuable about it is to be able to do it even vaguely well, you have to be able to clear your mind, you have to be able to just focus on what you do. I've done it a couple of times when I've gone to a session and I've been stressed out by the day. I've only just made it their last minute type of thing and my shots are complete rubbish. And you have to be able to sit there, breathe, clear your mind and focus on what you're doing. So to the detriment of everything else. And so that's what I think it's going to keep on going with. Hopefully do it once, maybe twice a week and see how that helps my mental health and my general well being, but it's quite a small thing, but it just feels it's been so long since I've done a sort of course attended in a completion of something like that and I was just very proud of myself. Well, that's awesome. I'm super glad that you are engaging with meditative archery. I think that's good for you and your mind and your body and your soul. Yeah. My one More thing this week is something that I've had on my list for a very long time to talk about, but something else always kind of come up. So there's this company service, whatever. I'll mention the name and I'll put a link in the description. It'll be a reference link. It will go back to the show. But I'm not getting paid for any of this. I just genuinely enjoy this service. I'm a hard person to shop for when it comes to close. And so there's this service called Stitch Fix that will basically hire a stylist for you at a premium, like $20 a month or something. And they'll send you a box of clothes and stuff. It'll come to your door and you try them on and you say, do you like it or not? And if you don't like it, why don't you like it? And they'll adjust their recommendations for next time. And so I've gotten so many good clothes out of this thing. Not wearing them right now, but I've gotten so many clothes out of this thing that I really enjoy. And there's a pair of shoes that I got, some pants that fit me well. I have a weird body. And so, like, trying to find things that fit me well is hard. And so when I can get just get something that matches my style sent to my door and I can kind of put it it sounds like an advertisement, I promise it's not. But it is one of those things where I'm just like, this is a really cool thing that not a lot of people are doing. And it's really unique because I can communicate with my stylist and say, hey, I really like that blazer you sent me. Is there another size that fits me better? Or something similar? And they'll send it back. They'll send you another one. It's a very cool product, a very cool service, and it's just something that I'm actually really excited about. So I don't know. Like I said, I'll put a link down below or something. Again, we'll get a kickback from it, but it's not an advertisement. I promise you it's not an advertisement. Anyway, that is it for today. If you like this episode and enjoy some of the discussion about deep space surgeries, I'll encourage you to go listen to episode 228. Is the Mars Mission doomed from the start. Maybe. I don't know. That's a good one. There's some other good ones in there too. I don't know why that one's there. 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 Discord community, visit our official website, sign up for our newsletter. Stay up to date with all the latest evo factors. News if you like what you hear, you want to support the show, there's a couple of things you can do. One, you can leave us a five star review. Barry and I were just talking about that in the preshow. It's free for you to do. Really helps us out. Two, you can always tell your friends about us. That also really helps us out. Word of mouth is how we grow. And three, if you're financially able and want to get some of those extra goody bonuses that we talked about, always support us on Patreon. We are eternally grateful for those folks. And as always, links to all of our socials and our website are in the description of this episode. Mr. Barry Kirby thank you for joining me on the show today. Working our listeners go and find you. They want to talk about robots in space. If you want to go and talk to me about robots and space, then have some people have already done today gone? Hit me up on Twitter basin okay and come with us some mind to views, one to one interviews with HR specialists and learn a bit more about what different domains do at the Twelve or Two Humanfactors Podcast, which is a Twelve or Two As for me, I've been your host. Nick Rome. You can find me on our discord and across social media at nick underscore Rome. Thanks again for tuning into Human Factors. Cast until next time. It depends.


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.