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From Brain Science to Intelligent Machines

Cognitive Science and Human Factors Research in the Aerospace Domain

Date: Wednesday 10/2/2016

Venue: MS105 (Boardroom)

Time: 11.00 am

Speaker:     Chris Michael Herdman
                   Full Professor of Cognitive Science and Psychology
                   Scientific Director, Centre for Visualization and Simulation (VSIM)
Advanced Cognitive Engineering (ACE) Lab

Affiliation:  Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Cognitive Science and Human Factors Research in the Aerospace Domain

Prof. Chris Herdman

Full Professor of Cognitive Science and Psychology
                   Scientific Director, Centre for Visualization and Simulation (VSIM) 
Advanced Cognitive Engineering (ACE) Lab

Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


TI will present a high-level overview of my lab’s research at the Carleton University Visualization and Simulation (VSIM) Centre.  My intent it to open a dialogue with researchers at the University of Ulster.  The $30M VSIM Centre was established in 2007 through $15M funding from industry and with $15M matching funds from the Canadian government.  The Centre supports multidisciplinary R&D, with strong collaborations between researchers from the human sciences (cognitive science, psychology, HCI) and engineering (aerospace, systems & computer).  The Centre also supports research in immersive media architecture.  New initiatives at the Centre have reached into the humanities, including a project using VR to allow disabled children to create and perform in musical space.  I will summarize a few of the projects that my lab has conducted in the aerospace domain, including assessments of head-up displays (HUDs) and our research on the role of motion cueing systems in flight simulator training of pilots.



My approach is to link fundamental research on human perception, cognition and attention to the design, implementation and evaluation of advanced human-machine systems. Current areas of research are listed below:   


Flight simulators are used extensively to train pilots. The long-term objective of this research line is to develop next-generation flight training systems using virtual reality (VR) technologies.  Fundamental research includes examining the role of motion cueing in simulator-based training experiences as well as issues of embodied cognition associated with using virtual and augmented realty systems for training in complex task domains.



The long-term objective of this research is to develop an on-line brain monitoring capability that can be used in aircraft to monitor pilot workload and pilot fatigue.  This research is support through a partnership with the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) Flight Research Lab.


The long-term objective of this line of research is to develop and validate a computerized assessment battery that can be used to detect cognitive health issues that may compromise performance and safety with older pilots. Fundamental research is focused on developing a cognition-oriented model of performance for aviation (COMP-A) that specifies the relative impact of pilot attribute factors (age, expertise), domain-independent variables (working memory, processing speed, inhibition, visual-spatial attention), and domain-dependent variables (situation awareness, prospective memory, task management, task-relevant performance) on performance outcomes.


This multi-year project is aimed at developing a game-based cognitive assessment tool to assess the cognitive health and performance readiness of astronauts during long-endurance missions (e.g., International Space Station).  




Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI): VSIM Centre                            $28.8M

Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI): HCI Centre                                 $4.6M

Department of National Defense (DND)                                                          $4.5M

Canadian National Search and Rescue Secretariat                                            $2.2M

SSHRC INE Collaborative Grant                                                                     $2.6M

NSERC Funding (Discovery, Strategic, Equipment) (PI)                                 $975K

Canadian Space Agency (CSA)                                                                        $550K

Ontario Centers of Excellence (OCE) (PI)                                                        $745K

GOC Contract for International Assessment of HDTV (PI)                            $250K




I am the Scientific Director of the Carleton University VSIM Centre.  As the Principal Investigator, I established the VSIM Centre in 2007 through the acquisition of $30M funding. This included $15M from the Canadian Government and $15M from Industry partners.

Unique Facility and Infrastructure.  The VSIM Centre is an 80,000 square foot special built facility.  The Centre consists of 10 core labs equipped with state-of-the-art visualization, simulation, virtual environment and modeling technologies. Infrastructure includes several flight simulators (helicopter, fixed wing, fast jet), as well as vehicle, naval (ship deck) and UAV simulators. 

Annual Funding.  The VSIM Centre attracts research funding of approximately $5M annually.


Multidisciplinary.  The VSIM Centre directly support the research of over 20 faculty members from the Human Sciences (Cognitive Science, Psychology, HCI), Engineering (Systems, Computer, Aerospace), Computer Science, and the School of Architecture (3D immersive media). 

Student Training.  The VSIM Centre supports the training of 80+ graduate students annually.  The students come from seven different academic programs and across three Faculties. The Centre hosts postdoctoral students and numerous visiting faculty and researchers from abroad.  Students often gain practical experience from internships with the VSIM industry partners and with key government agencies.

Industry & Government Partners.  The VSIM has over 25 industry partners. Industry partners are actively engaged in R&D at the Centre.  On average, 20-30 industry employees are onsite at VSIM daily.   The VSIM Centre is directly connected to key government agencies and research labs, including the National Research Council (NRC), Transport Canada, Transportation Safety Board, and Defense R&D Labs.