Tactile Guidance for Land Navigation

Report No. ARL-TR-3814
Authors: Linda R. Elliott, Elizabeth S. Redden, Rodger A. Pettitt, Christian B. Carstens, Jan van Erp, and Maaike Duistermaat
Date/Pages: June 2006; 34 pages
Abstract: This study compared a tactile land navigation system to two operational systems with visual information displays. ?Front end? workload and task analyses identified land navigation as having high and conflicting workload. The tactile display was expected to ameliorate the high visual and cognitive workload per Multiple Resource Theory (Wickens, 2002). Fifteen infantry Soldiers navigated three equivalent 1800-meter routes using each of three systems: (a) the personal tactile navigator (PTN) tactile system, (b) the U.S. Army precision lightweight GPS (global positioning system) receiver (PLGR), which is a hand-held GPS with an alpha-numeric display, and (c) the traditional compass system. Note: Each soldier traversed each lane with different navigation systems; we counterbalanced the order in which they used the systems and the lanes that were walked with each system in order to control for any effects attributable to order (such as fatigue) or to the lane itself. The PLGR system was predicted to enhance performance relative to the compass system because of reduced cognitive demands. The PTN system was predicted to enhance performance relative to both PLGR and compass systems because of (a) reduced cognitive demand from more intuitive display (e.g., following direction of tactor) and (b) off load from visual attention demand. Soldiers performed more quickly and accurately when using the PLGR and tactile systems, relative to a compass. However, there was no significant difference between GPS and tactile systems. This is likely because of the low need for focal visual attention during navigation in this experiment; there was not as much interference with the occasional use of a visual display. However, visual attention demand increases when there is an active search for enemy or reduced visual field (e.g., fog, darkness). These results emphasize the need for detailed task analyses to ascertain differences in cognitive demands resulting from off loading information to a different channel. The PTN system demonstrated operational effectiveness and high promise for battlefield situations with increased attention to threat and/or reduced visibility.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: June 1, 2006