Information & Human Centred Computing Group at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Bruce Thomas, from University of South Australia is speaking. on building prototype workstations to try put the interface for systems, such as the combat system on a submarine. Using the standard techniques applied in interface design a non functioning "mock-up of the interface would be first built, then a prototype with real controls. The mock-up is very flexible but cannot be used for more than very early tests. The prototype can be very close to the look and operation of a production device, but cannot be easily changed. Bruce is looking at using sensors which can detect the position of the operator's fingers, with simulations of controls which can be changed quickly. As interesting aspect of this is that the interfaces for real devices, such as combat systems are using the sort of interfaces Bruce is designing for prototypes. Military consoles are tending replace special purpose switches and buttons with a touch screen, a general purpose pointing device.
While Austrlaia does not design a new submarine very day, there are many other military systems which need interfaces to electronic systems. The pratice has been to simply add a new control panel for each new items of equipment. However, the physical space in aircraft, ships and vehicles, and the capacity of the operator to uses the assorted controls is limited.