New User Experience Improves Military Safety and Effectiveness

Cedar Valley of Iowa, June 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Each year, 5000 people are killed or maimed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).” A company called NIITEK wants to reduce this number to zero, and they thought Cedar Valley native company, Visual Logic was the company to help.

Imagine, you are the lead vehicle in an armored convoy in Iraq. The sun is shining brightly and it’s a hot day. You can feel the sweat running down your face inside of your military gear.

The armored truck you are in is equipped with radar technology and has the capability to identify underground IEDs and mines. These explosives could potentially injure you or others in your convoy. It’s your job to keep the convoy safe, and all of those in it.

All of the information and data feeds into a display that hangs from the ceiling of your cab. It shows all of the masses beneath the ground and alerts you when a threat is detected. However, the sun is hitting the perfect spot, reflecting off of the screen.

Have you ever tried to read your phone in direct sunlight? It can be frustrating, and it was one of the many issues that soldiers were facing with the display as they were navigating dangerous minefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army identified that this was an issue for soldiers, and was a large safety concern for military convoys. They needed to make a change and began looking for alternative options. This is where NIITEK and the Cedar Valley’s Visual Logic came in to help.

“It’s the soldier's job to monitor the software so they can correctly detect and mark explosives—a heavy burden to bear,” shares Andy, especially if the situation you were in makes your display hard to read.

Visual Logic is a UX (user experience) design consultancy located in downtown Waterloo, IA. It launched 11 years ago by Andy Van Fleet and his partner, Kurt Vander Wiel. The duo, “wanted to create a work environment in the Cedar Valley that [they] were proud to work at and that other people would be proud to work at too,” shares Andy.

He continues, “this business could be anywhere but [we] chose the Cedar Valley because it’s a great place to raise a family, has a low cost of living, and provides great talent that comes out of the schools from the area.”

“UX is the process of making technology user-friendly,” shares Andy. Visual Logic has five different teams within their discipline, working to provide clients with a one-stop shop UX service. Their staff is experts in, strategy, user research, design, prototypes, and usability testing.

Andy explains, “When we do our job the right way, the user experience kind of blends in the background.”

Do you remember the last time you had a frustrating experience while using a piece of technology? Some of the same issues are experienced by members of our military, individuals whose lives were on the line, where user-friendliness has real effects.

Visual Logic wanted to make sure that they provided the soldiers driving the vehicles with the right tools so they can make informed decisions and keep their comrades safe.

Visual Logic completely redesigned the framework and display of the data generated by the radar. They implemented new colors, increasing the contrast and addressing the issue of the glare of the sun. They also rearchitected elements on the screen, making the process of identifying the mines easier and more comfortable for the operator.

The goal was that soldiers could safely mark mines in any situation, and in any environment. “Is it cold there, is it warm there? If it’s cold and they are wearing gloves, we need to know that because we need to think about the target sizes. We don’t them to accidentally fat finger something.” Andy shares.

The feedback from the soldiers speaks for itself.

100% of soldiers felt the system enhanced their ability to perform the intended mission and 93% of soldiers felt the new system had greater detection capacity.

"Since the initial release, the user experience has been ported to multiple projects due to its overwhelming success.” shares Arthur Fernandes, Program Manager, NIITEK.

For example, the technology has been installed in tractors in countries that have minefields from past conflicts. Citizens often had to navigate these dangerous fields as they lie between them and the resources they needed. These tractors have been used to help people safely navigate the minefields and even remove mines, making safe passageways to water and other resources.

To learn more, visit Visual Logic’s NIITEK project page on their website.


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