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The EPAULETS project involves the development of a new system for training airport baggage screeners.

Looking for threat items (such as knives, guns and explosive devices) in luggage x-rays is a complex task and so airport screeners must undergo a programme of training before they are given the responsibility of screening for real flights. The EPAULETS project aims to increase the efficiency of that training by the introduction of eye-tracking techniques - both to monitor participant's performance and to offer them feedback in relation to their visual search strategy.

The project involves a number of stages. A key element is the development of a simulator, which will allow scrolling and manipulation of x-ray images in a realistic manner. Another is to gain understanding of the visual search task itself, in order to determine the mechanisms involved in efficient and successful screening. It is also important to demonstrate that the system does indeed offer benefits in training, and possibly even in overall levels of performance.

The end point of the current project is expected to be a 'proof of principal', after which we hope to progress to development of a physical product suitable for the end-user. Early indications are that in a number of ways this is a transfer of knowledge from the AVRC's experience with screening tasks in medical images, but also that there are some interesting differences associated with the specific task itself. More details will be made available here as and when results and insights arise from the work.

Update June 2008:
The EPAULETS project is now completed and information regarding the work has been published in the papers below.  Other publications are being prepared for future publication.  It is intended to extend the research in the future.

  • Gale AG, Purdy K, & Wooding D.: Designing out terrorism: human factors issues in airport baggage inspection. In D. de Waard, K.A. Brookhuis, R. van Egmond, and Th. Boersema (Eds.) (2005), Human Factors in Design, Safety, and Management. Maastricht, the Netherlands: Shaker Publishing. Pp63.    ISBN 90-423-0269-0
  • Gale A.G.:  Human factors issues in airport baggage screening. In P.D. Bust & P.T. McCabe (Ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics 2005.  Taylor & Francis, London, 2005. pp101-104
  • Liu X., Gale A.G. and Purdy K.: Development of Expertise in Detecting Terrorist Threats at Airports.  In D. de Waard, K.A. Brookhuis, and A. Toffetti (Eds.) (2006), Developments in Human Factors in Transportation, Design, and Evaluation (pp. 329 - 332). Maastricht, the Netherlands: Shaker Publishing, 2006.
  • Liu X., Gale A.G., Purdy K. and Song, T.: Is that a gun? The influence of features of bags and threat items on detection performance. In Bust P.D. (ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics, London, Taylor and Francis, pp17-22. 2006
  • Liu X. and Gale A.G.: Effects of time pressure on searching for terrorist threats in X-ray air passenger luggage images. In Dick de Waard, Bob Hockey, Peter Nickel, and Karel Brookhuis (Eds.) (2007), Human Factors Issues in Complex System  Performance. Maastricht, the Netherlands: Shaker Publishing. 435-442 ISBN 978-90-423-0325-6
  • Liu X. and Gale A.G., 2007, How visual skills and recognition ability develop with practice in Airport Luggage Inspection. In Bust P.D. (ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics, London, Taylor and Francis. 196-202

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